Five Poems, by John Amen.
After the Funeral
The floorboards exhaled,
walls slept for the first time in years.
Grandma slouched in the living room,
her belly hanging over her knees, makeup
streaked. Violins swirled in the library.
I distracted myself in the basement, thinking
of Ms. Gilham, my face in her cleavage.
Upstairs aunts and neighbors—the soldiers
of resilience—cooked, cleaned, scrubbed away
all semblance of death until the house
could have passed for a delivery room.
dad and his brother gnawing the gristly silence.
No one noticed the stain on my pants
or saw me put a silver knife in my pocket.
what i haul along
my mother is eve is my wife. her footprints have hardened in the soft clay of my brain. she removes me from her will. fluffs my knee prints from the cushion at the foot of her bed. lifetimes later, the sky still rumbles when i draw thin lines in the moss, retrieve my testicles from lockboxes and wombs of despair. when i manage, in the leafy dusk, to mumble no.
After the movie ends, the real plot commences.
Lovers grow out of their roles, themes
weakening like caulk. Script and drama run
their course, and the protagonists find themselves
on a Monday evening, tired, unable to improvise,
staring at each other over a lukewarm meal.
Years pass. They gain and lose weight,
waltz and stumble through the child-bearing days.
He screws up their finances with a gambling problem.
After her mother dies, she starts drinking heavily.
They see a therapist for two months, don’t make
love for three after she breaks her collarbone
in a car accident following a party—his fault.
There was the trip to Egypt, the Caribbean cruise,
albums filled with beaming faces, generations of pets;
fifty years together, grazing life like a feather
breezing past a patio table; ebbs and flows, cycles
of humility and hubris—story told and retold:
that they were alive, gloriously human, forgettable.
it snowed on the morning of eternal footsteps, pines hunched like crones. the furnace choked in the crawlspace beneath my bed. electricity froze in the wires. colder than karma. crosses burned on the mountaintop. in the valley, the shrieking went on for hours.
After the craziness, generations of
ruthless money-making and apostasy,
it comes down to this: you and I
weeping on the telephone, exchanging
words that heal the karma of centuries,
a transfusion into tired veins, the family
slate wiped clean. For eight houses,
our conversation is a tap on the shoulder,
forefathers spinning on their heels,
wondering what it was—wind, fowl—
that suddenly lightened their burden,
original sin as obsolete as a gramophone,
human connection the true second coming.
John Amen is the author of two collections of poetry: Christening the Dancer (Uccelli Press 2003) and More of Me Disappears (Cross-Cultural Communications 2005). He has also released one CD, All I’ll Never Need (Cool Midget 2004). His second CD, Ridiculous Empire, will be released in Spring 2007. He is featured in the 2007 Poet’s Market. Further information is available on his website: www.johnamen.com. Amen travels widely giving readings, doing musical performances, and conducting workshops. He founded and continues to edit the award-winning literary bimonthly, The Pedestal Magazine (www.thepedestalmagazine.com).
His work has appeared frequently in Offcourse:
Five of his poems appear in Offcourse #29, Winter 2007.
A review of his collection "More of Me Disappears" by Ricardo Nirenberg appeared in Offcourse #25, December 2005
Two Poems in Offcourse #21, Fall 2004
A review of his collection "Christening the Dancer" by Robert W. Greene appeared in Offcourse #18, Fall 2003
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