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Three by John Buckley

Legacy

by JOHN F. BUCKLEY

I get a shower stall filled with eleven varieties of cured,

hanging salumi, and a veritable forest of beanstalks,

and the halcyon days of a middle-aged, thundering

wererhino. I get baggies of cumin and coriander for

 

tikka masala, and roses from the infants’ cheeks, and

from the West, premonitions of future events. I get odd,

sultry, slanted insinuations from the vertical blinds, fully

heartsick when the power fails in winter during a heated

 

cooking competition, and my wife a tidy kilogram of

understanding, sliced and packed in plastic for easy storage

and consumption. I get the stepson reflection of the setting

sun off traffic-baffled rear windows on the 405, and pointless

 

qualms that prevent me from checking the inbox of my

secondary email account. But I did not get the others in

trouble with destiny despite its arrival amid pallid, fatal

threadsnipping to drag them beneath the skin of the world.

 

 

Hometown Expatriate

by JOHN F. BUCKLEY

 

Returning from twenty years of renters’ purgatory

on the West Coast, looking for permits at city hall,

I was sent into a bout of bureaucratic bumper cars

by the daughter of my mother’s ex-best friend, who

may have remembered me, may have meant the best

for me, or one of two. A breeze off the lake brought

the burnt-sock smell of early-morning brimstone left

from firing shotguns into the air to scare flocks of

incontinent geese away from the waterfront park.

I read the local newspaper’s awful features section

and already missed ethnic restaurants. They don’t

make sushi from bluegills and red-eared sunfish.

I was surprised to be kicked off the beach for lacking

proper tags by a lifeguard alive fewer years than

I had lived here. I pointed up the hill to the spot

where my childhood house stood before it was razed

for a flashy McMansion. There was a story in that,

and chronic plantar fasciitis still leaves me feeling like

a perceptive Fisher King, but limping along slowly

in flip-flops, I arrived too late to hear of the scandal.

At the local bar, they offered me lake water to drink,

a joke, a huge glass jug of green liquid almost as large

and transparent as my delusion of being a prophet

returned to his homeland, ready to make changes

to how daily bread was ground into ethical crumbs.

I had been among the first children to try escargot

back when the market began stocking tins of them,

so I had wrongly assumed a sort of advantage. Later,

walking past the address where my home used to be,

I spotted an old classmate through the bay window,

and she who had once freely chased and been chased

for kisses around primary-school playgrounds now

lounged in dim light with a glass of something dry

and maroon they didn’t drink in the old days. Off

I crept, sweeping myself down the street, tumbling

backwards, caught in a circle of my own choosing.

 

 

Protagonist

by JOHN F. BUCKLEY

 

Though my marriage is mighty,

my closet is filled with honeymoon suits that no longer fit me.

 

I will instead assume the mantle of hero,

wearing it like a poncho of heavy yet eminently breathable fabric,

sewing bright purple fringes down its sides

so that when I raise my arms in warning,

dastards in black hats can more clearly see their doom approach.

 

But first I will clean off the grime of ages

with several trips through the washing machine

(warm, gentle cycle),

bolstered by Woolite and OxyClean,

reinvigorating the mantle for a new epoch of heroism.

 

I will fluoridate the Pacific as my inaugural feat,

no kidding around.

 

I will reinvent dinosaurs,

then slowly braise them for days

so that the world may not run out of fossil fuels.

 

I will reach the belly of the whale and tickle it,

freeing the wayward prophets and sodden Pinocchii.

 

I will learn to distill tequila from concentrated agape,

a drink that obviates thousands of armed conflicts

and tens of millions of broken relationships.

 

Better ways of apportioning limited resources

will shoot in blue beams from my fingertips.

 

Such is the power of the mantle of hero.

 

My wife will adore me again.

Many will adore me, but as I will get by

on only fourteen hours of sleep a night,

“Protagonist,” page 2, continue stanza

 

there will be no time for autographs.

 

Yes, many saw my creation of the medical-marijuana

fruit loop as a mistake, perhaps even a tragic one.

And yes, mistakes were made.

 

Still, weigh my deeds in the balance,

except for the interlude with the tennis pro;

all good teachers drop the lowest grade,

and the same logic should apply here.

 

John F. Buckley (http://johnfrancisbuckley.wordpress.com/) currently lives in Orange County, California, but will be attending the University of Michigan’s MFA program in poetry this fall. His work has been published in a number of places, one of which nominated him for a Pushcart Prize in 2009. His chapbook Breach Birth was published on Propaganda Press in March 2011. His full-length collaboration with Martin Ott, Poets’ Guide to America, is coming out on Brooklyn Arts Press in Fall 2012. His solo collection Sky Sandwiches is forthcoming on Anaphora Literary Press.

 

 

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

To submit to Poets’ Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at counterpunchpoetry@gmail.com 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 one month (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).

 

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

 

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