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Issue 10 - A Journal of Letters and Life
Five Poems
by Christopher Locke

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Filling the Gaps

"I've tried each thing, only some were immortal and free."
     -John Ashbery
Waiting tables, I ran martinis
to customers with faces
slick as lunch meat.
During clean up, I smoked a joint
with the kitchen staff;
the cook invited me
back to his place. We smoked
crack in a 7-Up can.
We weren't glamorous,
but believed we were
something much more beautiful
and untamed. The cook held
the flame but shook all over
the place; I lit the rock for him.
For hours, smoke unpinned the slick
curtains of my throat; my heart
was a small bird before it discovers
a windshield. When he wanted to go
to Hartford for more, I squeezed
the sad wad of money in my pocket
a burning.

Still Life with School Bus

Memories don't arrange
themselves neatly, like beetles
pinned in straight black rows:
they're a house of cards
after one breath; a prize flower
garden surrounding an amnesiac.
But some remain sharp--
the first time masturbating, say,
or the morning you woke up
to discover you hated
your father. And now, this November
morning gone sienna, leaves crisp
in our hair, our breath
touching. By day's end, I'll release
this moment the way a mother
does her child, sending him out
the first day of school, hoping
he returns, as bravely, he climbs
the small steps of the bus.
Slow Gravity

We were punks dreaming
big crimes, and that last night,
our heads were seasick
with vodka as we dug a crowbar
into a driver's side door,
blue paint flaking
like confetti tossed at midnight.
Again, no stereo to slip
in our knapsack, no wallet left unattended.
After hearing sirens, we cut through
a dark yard. I filched a lawn chair;
its lightness startled me. We brought it
to the river to destroy; strange
vivisectionists. The aluminum
pipes snapped over our knees
like children's legs. When there was
nothing left to break, we stood dumbly,
waiting for an answer. But I stumbled
and gazed across the river,
the moon's reflection--
(that welt belt of cream),
and leaned over a stone
to puke. I gripped a piece
of chair tighter, and it was
this one thing that held me.

Of the Fittest

My cat swoons, deep
into a drooling argument
with the chest of a sparrow.
Who am I to do anything?
On this sunlit porch, I know
Nature is waiting to clobber us all.
And it's not a matter of how good
you are, how many children
you've sung to, or if you've spent
every Sunday filling the collection plate
with paper money: the last breath
of your life is waiting for you,
giggling like a lunatic.
I fold the newspaper after scanning
the obituaries. In the streets, cherry
blossoms sputter the sky with their
fragrance of loss. I look back
to the lawn and think, how simple
to be the cat, to hold the moment
precious, brittle and snapping
in the sweet rank of his mouth.

The Bomb

It was midnight. Standing
on a Caribbean beach,
rum whirlpooled my head.
The pull and suck
of the tide was hypnotic
and I was dazed
by the aluminum breath
of the stars;
everything was in balance.
I turned to say something
to Clark, something like
"Tomorrow, I'm gonna buy myself
a whole crate of mangoes,"
when there was a thud behind us
and the world grew bright
with pain. The explosion
ripped me from myself, and
I could hear laughter,
(a boy's), and wanted
to know what was so funny
until I noticed my clothes jeweled
with fire. I could smell flesh,
and then the flames grew,
because as we all know,
anything alive has to eat.

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