Poetry

January 18, 2019 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Christophe Leung photo

 

By

David Lohrey

 

 

 

Never Say Never

 

 

We are not far in America – and is it just in America – from evolving

a right to feel good about oneself.

Yo! my son won his 3rd grade spelling contest. He only made two

mistakes. Everyone won a prize.

 

First this, and then one learns to be offended.

 

I place this nougat into my notes.

 

My friend held a 2-foot tall pepper grinder

as he cooked, but served cold eggs.

The coffee had been excreted from the anus

of a Cambodian squirrel but was served lukewarm.

The toast, served cold – untoasted. It was a gourmet delight

but the temperature was not right.

He’d made the eggs first, set them aside, and forgot

to toast the bread. He buttered the bread with frozen

imported butter from France – the best money can buy.

It wouldn’t melt. I sulked and picked at his pretentions.

It was like a breakfast served by the Mad Hatter.

 

He was the kind of guy who has nothing for anyone

he is not fucking. Nothing to give.

It’s all in The Dying Animal. The politics of partnership.

It is always a story of so what?

Every failure leads to failure.

Every triumph leads to failure.

Do you know who you are? Of course not, who does?

 

But I do remember Alex, a shifty-eyed little guy who left his fly open.

I told him I’d be moving to St. Louis. He said, “You’ll be in panic city.

Do you know panic city?” Not really. I read Nabokov.

People in the hood don’t have kerfuffles. They have ass-kickings.

It is said, the people deserve it [the violence]. Every penny of it.

We’re desperate, don’t you know? The lies are

killing us. This not only applies to the fat who

don’t benefit from being called thin. It applies

to the stupid who are called smart. Same goes

for the untalented who are called geniuses

by their well-meaning tutors. Piano teachers, too,

should tell it like it is. People used to speak the truth.

But let’s face it, now everyone lies for money.

Schools make more by letting everybody in.

 

Thank God for death.

If people didn’t die, we’d still be listening to Demosthenes.

 

Ask father. Ask him. He knows.

 

As it was, life was hell.

A German farmhouse run by the relatives of distant monsters,

reading about the pus being drained out of him into gherkin jars.

And you’ve had it easy.

Just picture that painter you like, the one who lived outside Philly.

Yes, yes, he’s the one. And that Olga. Just look at them. You think

they ever found happiness?

 

Like Frida Kahlo, he lived the intense and prolific life of the semi-invalid.

 

Professor Snyder smiled like an insurance salesman at close of sale. She

encouraged Miss Alvarez to continue. She was talking about her parents’

mistreatment as recently-arrived immigrants on the Texas panhandle

back in the 60s. Miss Alvarez showed emotion as she recounted an incident

which for all listeners illustrated human un-kindness. Professor Snyder’s

eyes lit up. “You are so right to bring this to our attention, Rosa. It is quite

relevant to our discussion today of “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.”

American immigrants clearly experience a hell similar to that of the Soviet Gulag.

 

 

 

 

 

River Past

 

 

We all live on the Hudson, America’s only true river. It’s

a driveway, a landing strip, and a dead end. The Hudson’s

not the only river to become a school; it’s the only one beheld

by the likes of George Washington, Melville, and Sir Winston

Churchill. The Hudson is a work of art first seen by Thomas Cole,

Church, and Cropsey. It is the river of Allen Ginsberg and Malcolm X.

The Hudson crosses the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific, linking

Boston and San Francisco. Look at a map.

 

The Hudson doesn’t only contain water; it embodies all that is known

and then some. It holds the land. It encircles the earth. West Point,

that cool cat school where men train to remain calm under fire,

lies in its valley, in Cheever country, where his swimmer drank

until he got lost. Hyde Park to the north, Yonkers to the south:

lose one’s way and end up in the Bronx, not far from that immortal

stadium, where the Yankees play, just up from Maya Angelou’s Harlem.

 

Beyond the Berkshires, where Edith Wharton once made guests feel

Cosmopolitan, somewhere in the Connecticut forests can be found Roth,

standing at his desk, concocting stories of lust and loss, not far

from Bellow’s Hudson, where he once trained lions. There they

lived in the shadow of their depression-era hero, FDR, who stuffed

birds and dreamt of flying. They lived by the pen in the shadow

of that river, from Peekskill to Newark, bought and paid for once

by Cornelius Vanderbilt, a man not taken in by the likes of Huck Finn.

 

The Nile might be longer but this eerie canal runs deeper. The Hudson’s

not only a river but an artery. It’s the life blood of this nation. Unlike

the Mississippi, the Hudson doesn’t flood. It runs full force into the sea.

It takes its time and then picks up at Poughkeepsie. It’s not called

ol’ man river because it’s young. A real dame, she minds her own business.

The Amazon runs black, filled with piranha and cashew husks,

but the Hudson feeds on pine and beaver fur, English blue bloods,

and the greedy Dutch.

 

The Hudson runs through steel country, not rubber plantations,

navigated by men dressed in black, not adventurers in panama hats.

The tears of the Iroquois add to the river’s flow, an aqua duct of despair

and hope, now runs clear. Vanderbilt’s ships are gone; the river prevails.

It is New York’s longest running show, surpassing Broadway Baby.

Its lights never dim. This river flows to the base of the Statue of Liberty.

It soaks up the ashes of burning buildings. Corpses float to the bottom.

Debris is carried out to sea. The Hudson will always be a safe spot to land.

 

 

 

 

 

David Lohrey

David Lohrey is from Memphis, and now lives in Tokyo. He graduated from UC Berkeley. Internationally, his poetry can be found in Otoliths, Stony Thursday Anthology, Sentinel Quarterly, and Buckshot Magazine. In the US, recent poems have appeared in Poetry Circle, FRiGG, Obsidian, and Apogee Journal. His fiction can be read in Crack the Spine, Dodging the Rain, Literally Stories, and The Broke Bohemian. David’s The Other Is Oneself, a study of 20th century literature, was published last year, while his first collection of poetry, Machiavelli’s Backyard, was released in August. He is a member of the Sudden Denouement Collective.

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