Joe Fletcher: Three Poems


On the way I passed temples
and improvised ceremonies
conducted in hushed voices
in the blue shade of arches.
Cabbage heads floated
in a tub of dirty water.

A woman’s skin was scuffed
by lice. We shared a cigarette
while the laughter of carpenters
splashed against the buildings
and us. I felt replenished
just watching things:

A ferry churned. A goose
marshaled her young through
a tunnel of brittle stalks.
We entered a building
time had half-eaten.
Fading graffiti insulted us.

I roused myself to partake
of the dialogue sparked with
conflict. The room stank
from a shattered olive jar.
We were yearning
in our shirts. If the nurse

wouldn’t come I would
invent her and call her Gloria
and believe in her strongly.
I left to follow my telluric arc,
with my whalebone slingshot
and the flask given me

by the pilot in the bathroom
who furiously scrubbed
at a wine-stain on his collar.
Thus began the migration,
the eschewing of books, the sky
profuse with orbs and orb-streaks.

I wandered beneath their aegis,
in the company of oblong clouds
cascading behind monuments.
I had a few folkloric tokens with
which to impress the children.
The animals watched

with indifference from their
indentations. A spray of glass
winked from the road shoulder.
I muffled my radio with the tattered
coat I found. There was blood on it.
The blood was mine.


Solstice Sequence

Dawn finds two men wringing dew
from a white sail stretched overnight in a meadow.
A glider is reflected in the lip of a bell.
A deer’s exhale brushes creekwater.

Kisses are nails pinning an infant to slumber.
Soldiers stare blankly at the smoldering embassy.
The glinting midway smells of fried sugar.
A pear thuds on a corrugated shed roof.

A theater troupe performs to a half-circle
of bored citizens. The rugged arpeggios
of a cellist startle firefly constellations
shifting above clusters of goldenrod.

Young berries are ground to a paste
believed to stoke the fires of sight.
Laborers wear thick gloves to grasp
a cable bundle in the estuary basin.

A child nonchalantly discloses the source of winds.
A man and woman copulate in the bed
of a pickup winding down a canyon road
beneath a dusty blush of moon.

An epidemic rages in a drop of cloudy tincture.
Two sisters disappear into Madagascar.
A black wheel is found in the nave of a citadel.
A pistol is dropped from the window of an inn.

Mushrooms sprout from rot.
A sunk tanker shifts in a trench of Lake Ontario.
An invalid whispers into a phone.
A delphinium is potted in the upturned skull of a man.



His two legs draw strength
from the earth’s deep veins.
Something rattles with each inhale.
In the gray scalloped sky of late autumn,
when lakes smell like crumbled leaves,
you can hear him. But no one gets
a good look. He keeps it that way.
He is the chimera that slips between
eyes and things. He rinses, weary
from the hunt, at the gurgling grotto,
in all his fairbooth shabbiness,
behind his patch of color.
His two hands never touch.
He is alive because the world is.
He is fuming westward.
He is the breaking wave.
The gray flower.

His hair is the color of sawdust.
Immense the muscles coiled
dormant in his skinsack.
He feeds on the air.
What is nightmare
but to know he is near,
to hear the cracking of twigs
and to feel him brush
the flailing tubers of sense?

He left a book. It changes.
There is a hole in it.
No one has read it,
though we act as if we have.
It’s draining. We’re rusting.

If he leans into you, if he cuts
from you a piece of sleep—don’t squeal.
You have to eat a roasted crow’s wing

or lick the pungent armpit of a sorceress.
You have to find in the sedge a bitter nut
to hold beneath your tongue. For balance.
You might be alone for a long time.

He obliterates your ideas.

This entry was posted in ISSUE #3 FALL 2007 Tagged: , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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