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  • Daniel Gene Barlekamp

Seven Poems

a memory scribbled on the back of an envelope


that night

clipping coupons

by the light

above the kitchen sink


you listened to the crickets

chanting in tones

of friends long gone


you didn’t see me

standing

on the landing


the smell of nail polish

poisoned the air


Carlo Rossi

staining a juice glass


blue tulips

lead paint


but for all that

lobster was on sale

at ShopRite


alive and kicking

 

Vacant Lot


There used to be a house here.


Suburban nature

has taken over now:

chestnuts and beer cans

and trash bags and crabgrass

bleeding

into the blackened soil

beneath.

You crawl from the ground,

your sickness

staring me in the face,

spindly arms

reaching out,

but your withered roots

lash you still

to the scorched earth, and


I wish you could hold me forever.

 

A Dream of Salem, Massachusetts


on my right

a river

the kind that exists

only in dreams


on my left

the record store

shuttered

a spraypainted sign

“press here to raise gate”

pointing nowhere in particular


ahead

an apartment block

soviet

scarred

scowling over lebanon

illuminated by fluorescent ribs


i am terrified

but not

of witches

 

Places No One Remembers:

The Octagon Tavern

Tiffin, OH


Some places only DNA remembers,

DNA

and the spear-shaped cocktail stirrer

forgotten in a pencil cup,

true vintage,

rescued years ago from the basement bar

of a dead relative,

a memento of the site


of our genetic memory,

where a jolly, red-nosed uncle

beat his wife

but sure was nice to his nephew,

taking the kid on plumbing jobs

whenever his own hands shook too much

for the finer work,

where a cousin rotted

from the inside out

before 40

but was a hit with the ladies while he was at it,

and anyway it’s alright


because he’s in his mother’s arms now,

and don’t you know mothers always favor

the troubled ones?


Maybe they’re all together,

a chorus of polluted angels singing

“In Heaven there is no beer,

that’s why we drink it here”

while watching over

those of us on Earth

who are waiting in the wings—

waiting for our wings—

to enter

that great Octagon Tavern in the sky.

 

Two Questions and an Answer


i


“Which cloud is God on?”

the boy asks.


“I don’t know,”

his mother says,

fiddling with the radio.


Outside the window,

a cemetery rolls by.


ii


“What happens when you die?”

the boy asks.


“The worms eat you,”

his mother says.


His father joins in,

singing:

“The worms crawl in,

the worms crawl out…”


Inside the boy’s chest

blooms a fear

that wasn’t there

before.

 

Noir in the Key of Chrome


Two people

sit across from each other

in a diner.


On the table between them,

a napkin holder,

an Uzi,

and a question:


How do you end up

stumbling along Route 1

in the rain?


One of them

is about

to find out.

 

Pennies in the Dark


Look into our unseeing eyes.


We scare you when we

juggle pennies in the dark,

swirl popcorn in water,

and drain the color

from the walls.


In our blindness,

we’ll try to shield you

from the torn feathers

scattered

in the road.

 

Daniel Gene Barlekamp is the author of poems and stories for adults and young readers. Most recently, his poetry has appeared in Seventh Quarry, underscore, Daikaijuzine, and elsewhere. Originally from New Jersey, U.S.A., he now lives with his wife and son in Massachusetts, where he works in immigration law.

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