that ben hur life

featured in the poetry forum April 19, 2024  :: 0 comments

the interstate chariot race
an empty competition
but there is no salvation in beating a gps
no horseshit just roadkill
if you’re lucky you may find
white jesus waving an american flag
calling racers to pit
o that ben hur life

me, I prefer green corn
acres eye high deep in july
red winged blackbirds
watch over two lanes
watch waves across the sea

12:15, I didn’t follow orange detours
I made my own inventory
of one stop sign towns
odell, linden, romney

god bless america amplifies
across crawfordsville haze

o kate smith
let’s get earnest
across those fruited plains
until gray asphalt gives out
in an ocean white with foam

I have hours to go
to drift under the current
of a future harvest
there’s a thunderstorm
in my pocket for safe keeping
maybe I’ll dust it off come
the next state line

editors note:

This race has no finish line, just an endless array of exits along the way. – mh clay

the bag lady of boone

featured in the poetry forum July 13, 2023  :: 0 comments

black snake around her wrist
copperhead around her cane
she can appear anywhere
curiosity and superstition call her

she weaves tales of main street
ancient days framed in black and white
trysts with grandfather mountain flash
in the lightning of her eyes
she’s dreamed ursa
relegated her to the sky
stars are atoms escaped from bone

she feeds on energy
the consciousness of evening
takes all as she passes
leaves a stolen sweet white trillium
the smell of green apples
to waft in the air
then only the voice of creek remains

editors note:

Give way, lest you be taken, too. – mh clay

emphysema highways

featured in the poetry forum January 17, 2023  :: 0 comments

she’s not an impressive nag
magenta or metallic red
worn down by gasconade dust

even with the suspension shot
and no central air
to best this indian summer

she’s been topped
and pumped
and can shimmy her way
one hundred and eighty miles
across emphysema highways

she runs on memories
of joyboy jack oakie
california to sedalia
wheezing hard in the home stretch
downtown is a hawk’s feather away

one secret knock unlocks
blood orange refreshment
but this speakeasy is jealous
of her out there in warehouse dusk
go on babe, don’t be shy
when you piss next to her
you’ll see how she shines

editors note:

It’s not the mileage, it’s the memories. – mh clay

sunday in the suburbs

featured in the poetry forum August 7, 2022  :: 0 comments

cursed again
another round
of boring ass fried chicken
universally bland
not one damn bottle
of hot sauce in sight
they’ve fried it that way
since nineteen and sixty-three
in a strip mall surrounded
by other strip malls
as sunday in the suburbs
goes on in that blasé
he has risen kinda way
vanilla candles hold hands
with east pittsburgh refrigerators
work an afternoon six pack
tip silver with pirates
on every flat-screen
every child locked in a device
sun through plate glass
leaves a little light on the bar
fighting through the dark
it’s a small victory
even if it’s not
damn, it feels
like winning for a change

editors note:

Goin’ on for the win. – mh clay

the log cabin neighbors

featured in the poetry forum January 1, 2022  :: 0 comments

the log cabin neighbors next door
built a snowman that waved to me
it waved to my drunk friends
drinking in a mid-nineties new year
we were young drunk
punched silly in inexperience
it was inevitable we’d spill outside
after the ball dropped
boisterous party friends leapt
wood rail fence to dance
with the waving snowman
one industrious friend decided
this snowman needed definition
maybe a change
he fashions two snow orbs
creates a large snow vagina
now she is beautiful

the log cabin neighbors
are awake and angry
they want us off their lawn
or there would be police

we all punched silly back inside
the party faded
the new year stayed

in the morning
the log cabin neighbors
yard is a crime scene
the snow woman no longer waved
the log cabin neighbors
fans of man ray
surreal black dahlia ghouls
destroyed drunken art
destroyed becoming
leaving instead mounds of snow
bleak as rothko white

editors note:

The eve before, a raucous night; the new year after, clean and white. – mh clay

back when we were wild

featured in the poetry forum May 27, 2021  :: 0 comments

I wish we could share a kiss
but the prairie sneaks up
so goddamn fast
then never leaves

three wasted days
boiling in hundreds heat
across endless flats
with mute ghost copilots

I haven’t seen a hill
somehow I missed
a famous frontier town

I’m reading ray carver
while I drive
seems more useful
than a map

in a junk shop
or a motel
with no hot water
I catch a smell
that reminds me
of atonement
of another time
back when we were wild

editors note:

Wandering civility when wanting wild to be. – mh clay

I can’t make this akron

featured in the poetry forum November 10, 2020  :: 0 comments

(for victor clevenger)

victor, I know you’re out there
watching my apartment sink
like the titanic, I know
it’s not that dramatic
it’s really not even as cool
as getting hit by a streetcar in akron

but you were there, no civilization
in your pocket, watching a dragon
and an octopus and the titanic

I’m sorry I can’t make this akron
but in the warmth of the summer
in a time before ice water and unraveling
you watched my apartment sink
as fatalist lovers fucked against
children’s home walls

they left condoms in the street
a telegram to pittsburgh
that brief time when we forgot the h

my neighbor remembers
you asleep on the stoop years after
cigarettes and lighter next to you
not noticing the sun
inching through gingko leaves

if she hadn’t walked up when she did
maybe that sun would gift you
your own iceberg
your own streetcar

I came starboard hours later
john brown in bathrobe
tossed the deadbolt
you were awake and salty
mumbling about slaughterhouses again

editors note:

The best house guests stay outside the house. – mh clay

our subscription to reality

featured in the poetry forum April 19, 2020  :: 0 comments

you confessed the magic
had drained away
I listened for coyote
stared at a red sky
smelled rain coming
waited for my turn
at the joint, sharing
this anxiety is too much

a man sheep monster
lives down the road
he hypnotizes people
to fly off the trestle
most times as they step
toward oblivion they find
their wings give out

I dunno, maybe none
of this is magic, maybe
our subscription to reality
ran out, there are moments
at red lights I don’t think
I have anything left
another failed sex symbol
drinking a lukewarm cup
of ginger turmeric tea

maybe it’s all different
we’re not the same
people we woke up with

she said right before
she went under she
saw a man at the window
he smiled maniacally
laughed it was a dream
it flashed, it landed, harmless

editors note:

Open or closed, blinking is thinking and what’s wonder is real. – mh clay

the confederate general of osage county

featured in the poetry forum February 1, 2020  :: 0 comments

I breathe the breeze
from the wings of a fly
as sun cracks eyelids
hangover looks for a corner
and the same fucking rooster crows

this son of a bitch
the confederate general
of osage county, crows
every morning at the exact
time of stonewall jackson’s
death, this son of a bitch
rooster believes in reincarnation

let us cross over the river
gather in the shade of the trees
let’s roll out the trashcans
wait for the meth labs
of the gasconade to open
the ozarks will stand
then fall like appalachia
this son of a bitch keeps crowing

this rooster expects
lemons from your pocket
if you don’t then motherfucker
you better at least straighten
up, stand at attention and salute

editors note:

An historian with something to crow about. Wakey! Wakey! – mh clay

Get Lucky in Kentucky

featured in the poetry forum November 2, 2019  :: 0 comments

the cook keeps
wandering out from the kitchen
standing in the bar
what I don’t fucking know

you can tell
getting clean
is a new thing
he’s not used to it
he’s not even sure he likes it

she uses the word
after her second drink
damn straight
that made it sure
I’d invite her
back to my place

how we got to her place
is a different story
probably had something
to do with the moon landing

I’m still in bed
she hands me a guitar
I strum four sour chords

bite the nails
off my left hand
stuff them
in an open condom wrapper

she’s tuning her fiddle
wearing only a green t-shirt
it states
get lucky in kentucky

editors note:

It’s a different kind of jam session; lucky in any state. – mh clay