Winter 2005



John Amen

"Tonight as always/There is no one to share my thoughts."
--Chu Shu Chen

"How many Spring Festivals are we born to see?"
--Su Tung P'o

The sky stretches like a yogi;
yesterday was a nightmare that would not end;

today, that is forgotten;
butterflies christen my gables.

I am a creature of habit; then again,
there is no predicting what I will sing tomorrow.

Dogwood blossoms throb in the twilight,
whispering in a code I cannot decipher.

Cicadas swarm like tourists; frogs
conspire behind every blade of grass.

The beauty of these days is unbearable.
August again-- sleep feels like suicide.

Words stick to my brain like burrs. I am
bearing the twins of meaning and bondage.

The arsonist strikes a match; the .38 backfires.
A Rottweiler is baying outside the prison.

My secrets are as common as empty soda cans.
It is true, this cliché about attachment and misery.

Irritation thrashes in my gut.
Soldiers are smoking in the backyard.

There is more than one Mecca, one Medina.
I will be like pollen, settling in distant places.

The day is my field; love is made of wind.
What shall we harvest tomorrow?

My liver clutches grief.
There is a witch inside my pancreas.

Children sharpen knives in the driveway.
"Have you crafted a saddle for your mind?"

the guru asks me, and a memory begins
to surface, like mutant worms after a bombing.

We always end up in a strange town
staring into a kaleidoscope, discussing

the ash and ember of our days. A man is
playing a familiar song on a stolen guitar.

We cross many bridges, sleep in monasteries.
Seasons come and go; lifetimes, too.

The music of the iris is hard to withstand;
its purple song claws at my heart;

its sister, the azalea, is incoherent, slurring;
the dogwood, plaintive brother, sips a whiskey of moonlight.

Forsythia, monomaniacal cousin, tosses its yellow garb
on the walkway; grass recites fairytales to the patient oak.

Blue of the birdbath, lilies like a plea,
sky yawning: the riddles of my life in abeyance.

Could I ask for more? Water is abundant. I have
written three songs today. The storm arrived

and passed like a poker player's bluff. Tonight
will be what it is: I am a child in an amusement park.

The sun bleeds into the ocean, dying
a slow death. The lighthouse trembles.

Dogs are growling by the fence. Long hours
settle like a mattress; the sky clears its throat.

Stars rise like a man doing a push-up. I sit
cross-legged in the sand, drum until rainy dawn.

I cannot put my finger on what
is stomping up and down my spine.

Shadows spread like an oil spill.
Summer approaches like a tribe of cannibals.

I will stumble into my greatest creation.
There is so much to translate.

Cardinals are singing in lime-green trees;
the sun is fading like a child abducted by a stranger.

I cannot make the necessary phone calls this evening;
I can only watch the wind rub its palm across the lake.

The swollen gardenia is crying; the serpent has
bitten the dove. Doubt avalanches like a truckload of coal.

A hurricane has torn through my paperwork.
Suspicions are disappearing like a head cold.

The maples are as full as sex. Thick hedges,
bird nests, owls yodeling in the afternoon.

The garden takes shape like a maturing girl.
Soon there will be fireflies flickering over the lawn.

Love is rising like bread. I stared
into the eyes of thirteen specific demons;

I rewrote my birth date. In a fog
as thick as algebra, new information came to me.

I have no use for tenses now. All the world
is a puddle, and I am a boy with a new pair of boots.

I am grateful for all the green in our veins.
Ivy wraps around gravestones. Lyrics flow

like lambs' blood. Leaves are quaking on the branch.
Each day more of me disappears into the cerulean mouth.

I have no need to doctor the withered fig tree.
The wheat is full, and crickets revel outside my window.

John Amen's debut poetry collection, Christening the Dancer, was released by Uccelli Press in 2003 and has been nominated for various awards, including the Oscar Arnold Young Award and the Brockman-Campbell Prize. He has published poetry and fiction in various magazines and journals, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A new musical recording, All I'll Never Need, was released by Cool Midget Records in 2004. He is also an artist, working primarily with acrylics on canvas. Amen founded and continues to edit the literary bimonthly, The Pedestal Magazine (



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