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Whatever Will Be by JOHN POPIELASKI   Asbestos is a little town in southeast Canada where mining is a way of life and it is impolite to ask if mesothelioma or related ailments of the lung are common or accepted, part of doing business with a microscopic fiber that will not dissolve in water or […]

Popielaski, Held and Orloski


Whatever Will Be



Asbestos is a little town

in southeast Canada
where mining is a way
of life and it is impolite
to ask if mesothelioma
or related ailments of the lung
are common or accepted,
part of doing business
with a microscopic fiber
that will not dissolve in water
or consent to alteration via flame.

I am descending
toward the little town,
and I imagine angels down there
batting fibers faithfully away
from the defenseless mouths and noses
of the Quebecois who answer
inquiries about the air
by smiling and reminding
the inquirers we all
must die of something
that we would with white masks

or with forearms

or with wishful thinking

try like hell to shun.
John Popielaski’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Bluestem, Canary, Theodate, and Toad. He is the author of Isn’t It Romantic? which won the 2011 Robert Phillips Chapbook Prize from Texas Review Press and O, Captain, which won the 2006 Poetry Chapbook Award from the Ledge Press.




Laugh and laugh the whole day through
and halfway through the night.

These long-ribbed notes
uplifted beneath the blade
sing no children from the land,
but stone and stump,
each sprig of bile,
the sniffling of the spade
ring with every glottal pulse
to an all but empty sky.

The spiraling sockets of the earth
where olive trees once stood
brim the roar of lebensraum,
of soil and of blood.
Go and feed the whirlwind —
come gild the wound a god —
we’ll scatter one-day-petals
round the iron rod.

Lancet-lore, O Lancet-lore,
a swallow song so fine
peoples deep the darkness,
it peels the skin of light,
we chink the wall with watchwords
and chosen alibis
as the calf mewls like a stranger
across the guttered lines.


Peleg Held was a former member of Voices in the Wilderness as well as several other failed campaigns for basic human decency. He is a carpenter in Portland, Maine where he lives with his partner and children, (primate and other).



To my 1996 Buick Century



Century, I no longer see my image

in your navy-blue hood,

I wish I knew a cure for rust formation


upon fenders, holes in floor-board,

an engine tired of moving-on,

battered back-seat upon which I once made love,

your radio replaced human voices, together

we survived fender-benders, D.U.I. checkpoints,

muffler and exhaust pipe hung by wire,

I cannot accept the place your are now destined,

chariot Via Appia, last stop Route 66, the Autobahn end,

I long to fill you with unaffordable life-giving Premium,

pump $1.00 air into bald tires, take you on a country road,

park beside Lake Winola, turn-off ignition,

polish your hood, massage with chamois,

torment you no more to carry me elsewhere,

let you rest in the Land of Cash-for-Clunkers,

I do not accept it’s all over, you are my guru-metal,

I hold an owner’s card, you are no longer Bank property,

Scrap-man Mike Booth offered $125.00 for you,

I must take the money for now, perish as we must,

my Buick Century,

there is no proof whatsoever that there are no more roads.


Charles Orloski lives in Taylor, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at


Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

Poets Basement is now on Facebook. Find us as

To submit to Poets Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work).  Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where.  For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights.  Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx – use “Save As” to change docx or odt files to “.doc”).  Expect a response within two months (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).

Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.

For more details, tips and suggestions, visit Thanks!