Feature Poet: Duane Anderson

Duane Anderson currently lives in La Vista, NE. His poetry has appeared in Carcinogenic Poetry, Fine Lines, The Ibis Head Review, Lunch, Pastiche: Poems of Place, Poetry Now, Saga, Telephone, Touchstone, and several other publications.

*

She Said, I Said

She wanted to talk,
I wanted to listen to the band.
Parts of her conversation I did
not understand.
She told me I should be trying
to find another woman other than her,
that I was a nice man and shouldn’t
shack up with just anyone.
She couldn’t remember my name for very long
because she asked me three times.
She said I had a nice smile and dimples
throughout the time she sat next to me.
She asked me three or four times what
I am going to do when I grow up.
She thought I was a young man
even though our ages are only two years apart.
When I asked her what she did for a living
at the company she worked for,
all she would say is whatever.
Whatever didn’t tell me much.
She told me she thought accountants are boring
But that did not stop her from talking to me.
She asked me to dance
and we danced.
She tried to hold my hand.
She touched my arms and legs.
She asked me if I wanted to leave this bar
and go somewhere else where it was quieter
so we could talk.
It is not that I am stupid and can’t take a hint,
but all I wanted to do that night
was sit by myself and listen to the music.
Is that wrong?

*

Winter Snow

Ecstasy! With ten inches of snow on the ground,
everything couldn’t be much better.
On my way to work this morning,
I turned into a little kid, all bundled up with lunch
in hand ready to go to school.
On the way, I threw snowballs at cars, policemen,
old men and ladies, pastors, teachers, bums, dogs,
businessmen and bankers; but I didn’t throw
any at poets, novelists, artists and or musicians.
I ran through snowdrifts, made a small snowman,
fell down backwards making angels in the snow,
drew pictures, and wrote words of wisdom
in the snow, and while all of this was happening,
there was a smile on my face. Not an ordinary smile,
if there is such a thing, but a gigantic, big as a full
moon shining, cut in half with a couple of scoops
taken out ever so carefully smile.
Even when they let school out early at noon,
I ran outside laughing at the people without boots
while they tried to walk as if the ground was covered
with cow shit and it was going to do weird things
to their shoes and find a way into their bloodstreams.
I laughed at the people spinning their car tires in
two foot drifts and while they were cursing underneath
their breath and out loud, no one paid much
attention to them. I laughed at people driving cars
with newly dented bumpers and fenders.
I laughed at people missing flights to Miami and
Phoenix when the airport closed. I laughed all afternoon.
Now as the sun sets in the west,
I am resting for another day, hoping it will snow some more.

*

All Hail! Midnight Lane Boutique alumna, Kristin Garth, is now hosting a weekly poetry spotlight at Spider Mirror Journal, called The Sonnetarium. To learn more, please click on the image below . . .

Previous Feature: John D. Robinson

John D. Robinson is a UK poet. His work has appeared widely in the small press and in online literary journals. His chapbooks include Cowboy Hats & Railways (Scars Publications, 2016) and An Outlaw In The Making (Ibid, 2017).

*

Bruised And Cracked

Her eyes have remained
alert, bright and perhaps
even beautiful, but the
rest of her has been
broken, not once, but
many times by brutal
sadistic mindless men:
2 children she will never
know; a near lethal O/D
of intravenous heroin
administered by a freaked-
out pimp; teeth smashed,
body bruised and
cracked and a voice so
soft and so tragic it may
make you cry to hear it
but enough tears have
already fallen and have
counted for nothing;
our eye contact is brief
and I am thankful for
this, for to sense such
sorrow and loss in such
beautiful eyes would be
too much for me.

*

3 Floors Up

I gazed at her face a long
while before I climbed off
the bed; she looked older
than any grandma; I had
no recall of the previous
night or this fully
clothed elderly stranger
I had awoken next to;
I made it to a window,
opened it up and
vomited into the street
3 floors below; I was a
long way from home, I
recognised nothing; on
the 2nd floor slept a
loudly snoring, toothless
old naked man; I found
the bathroom and then
the kitchen; I took
beer, bread and cheese
and stepped out into
a brand new day that
was just waking up;
I lit a cigarette as the
street-lamps switched off,
my footsteps sounded
with an early triumph
as I walked away.

*

A Corner Turned

‘You were collapsed in
the heap of shit that you
are, I found you when I
came home from work
at the bottom of the stairs:
our neighbours had tried
to rouse you and didn’t
know whether to call an
ambulance, you’re
beginning to become a
fucking mess and it’s
hurting me and I can’t
love you, it’s horrid’
she told me across the
cafe table; I was shaky
and couldn’t look at her,
I was self-pity and
pathetic and wondered
why she even bothered;
‘I thought you were dead,
neighbours thought
that too, they were
frightened, I was
fucking frightened’ she
said;
I looked into her eyes and
reached out a hand, she
looked down and then
away, she breathed
deeply and closed her
eyes before taking my
hand;
‘You’re killing the both
of us’ she said,
tightening her grip,
fighting back the tears.

*

All Hail! These Poems Stole Your Lunch Money (2018) is a split-chap featuring the poetry of John D. Robinson and Bradley Mason Hamlin, available from Holy&intoxicated Publications. Please, click on the cover image below to learn more . . .

Previous Feature: Kimo Armitage

Kimo Armitage is currently working on his first collection of poems, These Shackles Fit Perfectly. Inspired by internally and externally generated narratives of the Pacific, these poems explore our willingness to remain manacled to people, places, and ideologies, including false histories. The author of numerous books for children, Armitage is a 2016 recipient of the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers. 

*

American Dreams

It is backbreaking work.
Strong strokes with my machete
shortens the stalk of cane.
The clear juice
drips into my palms.
I tip my hat to
the flock of bird clouds,
remember my wedding day,
the white ceremony
my past, now
a glint of rice-paper,
raw fish, pickled radish and
steamed rice in clay bowls.
I still taste
traces of bitter broth
made from fish paste, the smell
lingering on the wind. The breeze
coils through holes in my clothing,
conjuring memories of
a long boat ride,
a disobedient wife, and
the heat on the fields
quivers like petals
on autumn cherry blossoms.
I breathe into my fingers,
make a wish. I will work hard,
succeed in this new place.
I will make a better life for myself.
I will make lots of money,
spread it among my race.
I am the American Dream.
I chase it relentlessly.
When Japan bombs Pearl Harbor
I choose my new country.
America imprisons
my San Francisco cousins,
takes away all their belongings.
My cousin’s wife miscarries but
is still forced to stand in makeshift
processing centers until
she collapses from fatigue.
Yet, she says it is a small price to pay
for the enduring love of a country.
I pledge allegiance to the flag
every morning, before I
get my children ready for school
in their America-made clothes,
America-made shoes.
They carry their backpacks filled with
American knowledge.
I greased my hair with pomade,
ignore the racist taunts,
“Jap,” “Slant-eyes,” “Riceball.”
I believe my children will
be accepted by this land, and
only remember the past
that I create.
I want to cut off both legs
when my family becomes rich
so others will tend to my
every need.
Every morning, I will breakfast on
the American dream.
It has made me hungry
for things that do not
even exist.

*

Endurance

It is the summer of 1949.
I remember
the sounds Dad makes
while building the storage shed
for my mother’s crafts,
canned and pickled goods.
He brings nails and plywood
together, building spaces
where none existed before.
The wood becomes supple and
bends to accommodate
these large hands that
changes diapers and
digs for clams.
There is purpose and angst
in this construction.
The loss of mom’s mind to Alzheimer,
daily treks to the doctor,
selfish children and
a burlap of darkness
slowly covering his sight.
There are rows and rows of shelves
—even a sink and electricity.
My mother jokes
how she wants
to be buried in the shed.
Between the chore of 8 children,
the daily job of construction, and
one can of beans
sometimes stretched into a meal,
he finishes the shed.
For the first few years,
there are bottles of salted lemons
aligned meticulously on the
first row of shelves and
barrels of salted beef rotated
on each full moon.
I move into the shed because
it is the only place I can be alone.
I draw, I read, and I sleep in the shed.
I dream my biggest dreams and
plan my entire life while
staring at jars of pickled mango seed
until mother wanders
into the sea and drowns.
Dad’s grief bolts the shed forever.
Spiderwebs and rats take over and
red dust shuffles in
between the boards and blanket
mom’s ceramic vases and ginger jars.
My parents have been gone
over 40 years now.
The shed, long gone.
But, if I close my eyes,
I can still see it,
the coat of red paint
chipped in places, and
the missing, tarred roof tiles.
It is torn apart
by the hurricane of ’92.
I spend the entire month
searching the neighborhood
for the lumber,
hoping to rebuild
my father’s last masterpiece,
this time without errors and
a little more caution.

*

Wife’s Arrest

I am waiting in line
at the convenience store cash register
when I see her face on the news.
Her hands cover her face.
The tagline reads,
“Woman Kills Children!”
I drive to the police station.
She is escorted
into the visiting area.
She does not apologize, she looks
straight into my eyes
and scoots next to me,
kisses me hard until
she cuts my upper lip
and it starts to bleed.
“I don’t care what anyone says.”
But I cannot
reckon my anger
rising like the ocean.
She grabs me forcefully
by my jeans
and tries to kiss me.
I push her away and
ask her why she did it,
but craziness never has any answers.
I pack and clean the entire house,
repaint and fix the things that I can.
I contact a realtor and sell the house.
I give the entire check to her lawyer.
I walked out of that office and
out of her life forever.
I figure this
is the best way to let go.
Don’t leave any doors open.
She is a part of my history,
but not a part of my future.
For years I struggle to
find a good sleep.
I dream my hands
drip blood. Everything I touch
turns red. I put on gloves
but they fill with blood and
must be emptied.
Year after year, the same blood dream.
I stop eating, stop going to work,
stop living life until a man
with soft hands and a foreign voice
beckons me to him. He fixes
my spine with fingers and verbs and
takes me to church where he
disappears into the text of
sacrament and prayer.
But, the dreams continue so
I search for other remedies.
I travel across the world,
I remarry and have other children.
But for fifty years the dreams and
memories of my first son’s stay with me.
One night, the dream comes again.
My sons run across the fine white sand
of the open beach. I chase after them and
I grab them with my bloody hands,
hug them with the strength of a father and
ask them to forgive me.
The truth that finally breaks my gold fetters
is understanding a simple truth:
there is no limit on love or guilt and
they can exist side by side.

*

All Hail! Praised by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as a “vibrant portrayal of the Native Hawaiian mythos in the past, present, and hopeful future,” Kimo Armitage’s The Healers (University of Hawai’i Press, 2016) is available for purchase via Barnes & Noble. Please, click on the cover image below to learn more . . .

Previous Feature: Joe Balaz

Joe Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English) and in American English. Some of his recent Pidgin writing has appeared in Angry Old Man, The Ofi Press Magazine, Otoliths, and Unlikely Stories Mark V, among others. Balaz is an avid supporter of Hawaiian Islands Pidgin writing in the expanding context of World Literature. He presently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

*

Not my Circus

I no tink so Slick
dat no sound too good to me.

 

Not interested
no desire

so you can just stay deah
on your street cornah

wit your little bags of momentary euphoria.

 

I not looking
to be bathed in wun heavenly glow

cause wen da shine wears off

it’s like jumping out of wun airplane
witout wun parachute

and landing on da pavement
like wun ovah ripe cantaloupe.

 

I’m really much too spunky
to be wun sorry junkie

fooling wit da fire
spoon and needle.

 

It’s moa hip
to take wun natural trip

by rapping to beat of my feet
dat stay walking away.

 

If you could read my mind
it would be telling you

not my circus
not my monkeys

cause wen you play stupid games
you win stupid prizes.

*

Wit Everybody Else

In trying to get outside of your head
just make sure you pick wun healthy diversion.

Opiates and booze
entice like convincing sirens

ready to send you crashing on da rocks.

 

Plenty people no tink of dat
wen dey stay floating in da rush and da warm glow.

As easy to grasp as wun cloud
da rope to pull you back in

going suddenly disappear
and da surrounding blue going turn black.

 

You gaddah figure to be stronger den dat
and not fall into dat trap.

 

Got wun unseen dynamo
pulsating inside of your brain

humming wit da will to live
and waiting to be harnessed.

Try listen and power yourself
wit your own determination.

 

You can speak to da cosmos
foa comfort if you like

but rally to da earth undah your feet first.

 

In da meantime
if tings not going your way

no let da worldly parade
get you down—

God is just busy
wit everybody else.

*

All Hail! Back in the day, Joe Balaz edited Hoʿomānoa: An Anthology of Contemporary Hawaiian Literature (Ku Pa’a Incorporated,1989). A rare copy remains available at Abe Books, for any interested collector . . .

Or, download a copy for free at iBOOKread.com.

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