from Issue #8: Poetry by Floyd Salas

Photo (CC) G&R @ Flickr

Photo (CC) G&R @ Flickr

*

My Brother

He was bent in the shadow
of the same father
wore the same anvil of ignorance
like a hexer’s charm
round his neck

But he glowed like a dark sun
while I was shrouded
black and white
and dusk grey
where the skin showed

Grey is the truer color
I wear it like a dark shroud
White is seen at dark
when only the lamp has eyes

But black catches the light more
like windshields in July heat
and hot tar on a wide street

.

 *

New Year’s Eve  

The moon goes down in the crowd’s eyes
by half
sinking into the sunken lid

The black night cups the crowd’s horror
It will spill it back again
in the cold day
when vacant eyesockets hold yellow pools
of stale rainwater
and face powder
streaks its white masks

Pinpoint the spot
the star crosses your heart
Make a sign over it
in the indelible bruise of a fist
so you won’t forget

.

*

 .

Like Smoke Streaking From Every Shoulder

Al Curtis killed a guy the other night
shot him four times with a .357 Magnum
and it didn’t even surprise me
he was always so uptight and tough
too tough for the clientele at the Salamandra
drove them away
shooed off the poets
threatened them
snubbed them
wouldn’t pay them for reading
or even give them a drink

I think Al killed because he was an ex-con
because he had done time
been caged like a beast
and acted like a beast
because he was black
and they wouldn’t let him in the hospital
after the cops beat him up
when he was innocent

Suffering made him that way
but unless he’s got a lot of money
he’ll go to Folsom Prison now
for life

One hundred years will bury him
behind cool stone gray stone
grave stone walls
built by coolies in the last century
built to last forever
You can see the chips in the stone
where the chisels bit

Picture the guy he shot
struggling for his life
holding his hands out
terror lining his face
making his eyes blaze
the scream curling in his throat

Picture his heart
deflating with each shot
four times
and the first one knocked him down
from the floor he begged and moaned
“No Al No Al Please Al”
and then three more times
like a kick in the ribs
that splinters clear through
deep inside
where it hurts
too deep
to heal
knowing he’s dying
that the light is going out
that the hole
goes clear through him
empty space
like the circle in a donut
the center of the shape
but empty nothing
there
the first circle of eternity
gone clear through him
knowing that
knowing he’s dying
becoming air
literally
picture that

I killed a fly the other night
with my forefinger
poked him with it
and got him the first time
right by my eye
on the pillow
not more than an inch away
He never knew what got him
One poke
and that’s all there was

I cross my heart
then clasp my hands
and bow my head to kiss them
in penitence
Catholic boy
the ritual of death stays with you
like Che Guevara the communist
when the soldier came in with the machine gun
He crossed himself and prayed to the Lord
just before he died
small habit he never broke
when the cross came down

We are all little creatures of habit
like squirrels under the ground
pop up into the sunlight
to see
if it’s all
clear

.

*

ABOUT THE POET

FLOYD SALAS is an award-winning and critically-acclaimed author of seven books, including the novels Tattoo the Wicked Cross, What Now My Love, Lay My Body on the Line and State of Emergency, the memoir Buffalo Nickel, and two books of poetry, Color of My Living Heart and, most recently, Love Bites: Poetry in Celebration of Dogs and Cats. Also an artist and sculptor, he was 2002-2003 Regent’s Lecturer at University of California, Berkeley, as well as staff writer for the NBC drama series Kingpin and the recipient of NEA, California Arts Council, Rockefeller Foundation and other fellowships and awards.  http://www.floydsalas.com

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