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In the Heat of an Empire Night
by CHARLES ORLOSKI
Back in Summer 1963,
I believed we all breathe the same air –
JFK’s kids, Lawrence Welk’s orchestra, the Politburo,
Hayley Mills, Leave it to Beaver, Sonny Liston;
the same oxygen as a Fowler & Williams Trucking Co. clerk
who cut my father’s weekly paycheck,
the air entering into the pretty girl’s lungs
who stood patiently in-line for a hot fudge sundae
at a Dairy Dan ice cream van-window.
Dairy Dan’s carnival music repeated like a scratched LP,
air humid & dead, mother Mary out-back.
Daily she wore that embarrassing soiled babushka,
hung clothes on rope, whites treated with Clorox went first,
neighbors snickered, Mary waited for cool breeze,
she wondered if we’d ever get money like Chompko family,
buy a “blow-up” swimming pool, rest swollen feet –
breathe easier someday?
She looked old now since bearing me,
better try & escape her gaze?
“Damn you…, Chuck, you bought a $1.75 banana split?
When will you ever learn?
There’s something wrong in this here town;
others ain’t breathing same air we breathe,
there’s rarer kinds of air,
& we’re just tryin’ to make-do.”
My heart leapt, said nothing, & in Mary did I trust.
Beautiful sun-rays melted vanilla ice cream,
strawberry topping dripped upon my white T-shirt.
I missed Wyalusing Rock’s cool air an hour away,
an air which would never dare melt a banana split –
Bastard heat! maybe one day I’d get outta here,
move to Wyalusing, like Queen Marie Antoinette
& husband tried back in 18th Century?
The French Queen was pretty they say,
she had special airs about her,
& wealthy Philadelphia Frenchmen planned
to get Marie Antoinette safely across Atlantic,
move her upstream on Susquehanna River, the Azilum.
Was shameful her head had to be chopped-off
by angry people who breathe different air,
couldn’t afford food, let alone banana splits.
A poet said he’s frightened about what’s in air,
“Marie, Marie hold on tight, and down she went.”*
Did executioners feel the Queen’s last gush of air?
French Banks quickly acted, cut Marie’s pension check.
Austerity in Wyalusing Township air, Summer 2012 –
Marcellus Shale natural gas wells ‘a pumping,
“good paying jobs on horizon,”
and one day I shall meet a Queen,
settle into Azilum stillness, get my wind back,
eat Dairy Dan ice cream ’til obesity do I part.
*I love T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land for reasons strange & revelatory which one rarely figures-out, but affection never wears-out. Maybe Mr. Eliot’s Marie made it to the bottom of the mountain? The poet said, “there you feel free.” And here we are taught freedom is reached at mountaintops.
Charles Orloski lives atop old Vic’ Cafe, Taylor, PA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by JON ANDERSEN
Let us mourn the dead –
the living dead
that is – the ones who passed away
before our eyes, who kept waking,
walking, doing whatever they were told:
craft lies for immediate release
gut laws, take notes, vote
(and vote and vote and vote)
fine tune the ailerons of cluster bombs
put their backs into setting
megaliths: these great stones, the mossy
and pocked God, Country, Duty, Identity –
built for human sacrifice,
arranged to mark the passage of sun
and moon, their shadows cranking across
our land. Most nights Jon writhes –
too full of rage to sleep. Or if
he succumbs – to sleep like the dead –
it’s always to hop-to, to burn through
every second he can stand. The living
dead give him all kinds of free advice
and it all means the same thing: shut up.
Which is to say: join us and be reborn.
He has no choice:
with his life he makes an answer
Jon Andersen is the author of a book of poems, Stomp and Sing (Curbstone Press/Northwestern Univerity Press 2005), and the editor of the anthology Seeds of Fire: Contemporary Poetry from the Other U.S.A. (Smokestack Books 2008).
The Razor Overcomes the Demented Pocket Tonight
by ZORBA HASSIUM CHAOS
Each lion thirsts outside the initiative &
the kindly havoc puzzles the inventor
Nature lies without caffeine
Molecular risk of opening the eyes &
unexpected deeds fume in our mumbling
The virgin lowers the coal below her ashcan
A phoenix strays through the echoing analogy &
every noun behaves inside a charm
The composer will never score
How can a regret fear?
Zorba Hassium Chaos sometimes lives in the country. Sometimes he lives in town. Sometimes he takes a great notion to jump in the river and drown.
Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)
To submit to Poets’ Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at email@example.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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