Photo by Brian Michael Barbeito
The wooden dock’s planks groaned beneath the blazing Florida sun. Neal adjusted his sunglasses. He watched as a snowy egret took a step with one of its long twig-thin black legs. It paused, then stretched its swan-like neck and body with the precision of a ballet dancer. Neal tucked a pinch of tobacco between his lower lip and gum. As he folded his sun-freckled arms, the bird took a few quick steps, then lumbered skyward. Continue reading
1. February 3rd. The first time I was introduced to the sniveling, drooling, troglodyte that is my sister’s boyfriend Rob. Really, Ashley? You couldn’t do better than a middle-aged branch manager who loves ranch dressing and thinks that Justin Timberlake is an underrated artist? I went into the bathroom to reapply my neck blush, and that’s when I saw it. Rob had used the bathroom, and when he was done he hadn’t put the toilet seat down!
2. July 15th. In the spirit of good will, I tried to forget about the incident on February 3rd. I gave Rob the benefit of the doubt and assumed that his behavior had been an unfortunate blip. Boy was I wrong. On July 15th, after my entire family came back from the Michael Jackson Memorial 5K, I was horrified to discover that Rob left the toilet seat up again. It is truly unfortunate to see my sister paired up with such a primitive companion. Continue reading
Freezing in the gray light, the wind
at our backs like an anchor,
our boat steadies itself against the moon
and the captain’s hand. We tack across the sound
where the scallops are hidden.
We’ve prepared the nets again, patched
and mended our traps,
coiled the thick, sea—green ropes.
Our tongues are still raw from coffee.
We watch the wolf moon, still red, Continue reading
We’d drink until the stars went out, then scrounge
an hour or two of sleep before our shifts
hopping the subway in from Brooklyn, Queens,
jacked up on NoDoz, Yoohoo, vitamins
eyelids sagging like chintz drapery.
The day kept trying to dawn
and finally gave up, as if to say
today has been cancelled
due to lack of photons.
Nothing but wind and cold all
afternoon in the deepening gray
lashing us poor souls below.
At the hour of not quite twilight
the first flakes come down
slantwise like drunken
a spiral staircase to
the bargain basement.
They giggle and collapse on
each other, beginning to pile up.
It may be months before we can
scrape away their costume jewelry.
Kurt Luchs has poems published or forthcoming in Into the Void, Antiphon, The American Journal of Poetry and The Sun Magazine. He placed second for the 2019 Fischer Poetry Prize, and won the 2019 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. He has written humor for the New Yorker, the Onion and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, as well as writing comedy for television and radio. His books include a humor collection, It’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It’s Really Funny) (2017 Sagging Meniscus Press), and a poetry chapbook, One of These Things Is Not Like the Other (2019 Finishing Line Press). More of his work, both poetry and humor, is at kurtluchs.com.
This poem was first published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal.
“Stay with us, stay with us,” the swarm of ghouls yelled at me just after dawn on Halloween morning.
Witches had snatched my three-hour-old baby, taking her so I could not see her. Her cries from being torn away from my breast tore through me, but the ghouls told my husband, who now held our newborn child, to get the hell out of the room.
The doctor who’d cut me open just a few hours before to birth our baby, now pressed with the heels of both hands on my newly stapled belly, which was bleeding out. A gush of blood, blood pressure dropping to thirty over forty. When the numbers match up, the body is dead.
The rest of the goblins, I remember, discussed a machine, some machine they wanted to arrive to help me survive. The nurse was a minute away, they said. The drug she would give me would cause bloating, and they had to give me someone else’s blood. “I’m just tired,” I complained. I did not know I was dying. When she arrived, she wore a Nurse Ratchet costume, with a tight white tunic, bright white leggings and a small blue-and-white striped paper hat bobby-pinned in her coiffed blond hair.
Elegy and Praise Hymn
If ever I dream
of the crooked trees
with green around the trunks,
dripping water from their twigs,
I’ve found the spot
for my burial.
Gordo, Alabama, USA.
October 31st, 1933.
Charlie Wannemaker and Eddie Brackett spent the afternoon making the exemplary scarecrow. First they’d dragged the ragged old scarecrow off its stake down on ol’ Henderson’s corn field. They folded its straw-filled limbs up nice and tight and toted him in a red wagon all the way to Charlie’s barn. Henderson’s scarecrow was okay, but it wouldn’t do for the great stunt they had in mind for the night. Not without a touch of restoration.
“If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it right,” Charlie instructed. Continue reading