Trained Bears

My fifth summer
between my long-haired parents,
rolling East in our blue
’64 Dodge truck,
California to Nova Scotia,
all we own out back
under flapping mackinaw blankets.
Truck a barge floating the earth
and we, Mister Man, are the Bargers.
For weeks on the highway
I am wind, the blue truck bone.
We roll to a stop in the woods.
At night beyond our wicklight,
the truck a dark mammal
in a larger darkness,
heavy among the singing frogs.
We drive an old brown horse
—eyes gaping, lips loose—
slow as the truck will go
along the dirt road.
In Halifax, Dad backs up
to my window. The blue truck
sleeps years in a coma,
going turquoise. Then, gone.
Gentle peasant, big hands,
dirt under the nails.
Silent big-boned uncle
with PTSD. When Dad
turned off the ignition
it shook for a few seconds.
I felt rather than saw
how it shook. I feel it still,

I Saw Two Beat Poets at an Elks Club with a Girl in My English Class

…………..We stood at the back, her smoking,
spiked blonde hair, biker jacket,
………………………..much cooler than me.

…………..I sipped beer, nervous, chattering
about “that Ginsberg sound”
………………………..—when out he stepped,

…………..big granny glasses, grey prophet’s
beard, pumping a harmonium,
………………………..chanting:

…………..Bush paid Noriega, used to work together
……………They sat on a couch
……………and talked about the weather …

…………..Who was this tuneless
dorky grandpa? Where was the goblin sea hag
………………………..that once sang

…………..out of this mouth?
I stared, heartsick. Gregory Corso
………………………..swaggered out,

…………..head of hair, horn-rimmed specs,
black blazer. Edgier, tighter,
………………………..better. My date nodded hiply

Rais Bhuiyan Song

A man who embarked on a shooting spree in what he claimed was retaliation for 9/11 has been executed at a prison in Texas. The lone survivor of Mark Stroman’s attack on convenience store workers in late 2001, Rais Bhuiyan, originally from Bangladesh, unsuccessfully sued to stop the execution …
………………………………………………………….The Guardian, July 21, 2011

The Sublime Cacophony of Ernest Hilbert

Last One Out
By Ernest Hilbert
(Measure Press, 2019. $25)

Ernest Hilbert has an enviable ability to speak about contemporary America as if his words were washed in the blood of Achaean soldiers. Hilbert, speaking to the violence underlying human nature, sees war everywhere. Watching the Super Bowl in his calm living room, the football players—“Towering champions, created to win, // Will strut to their positions and pose, / Burnished, armored in emblems” (80-81)—become iron age warriors. Outside his house, birds swerve “in squadrons” (69). “The border of the republic,” says the speaker of “Mars Ultor,” “Is breached without notice: / More tug of war / Than elegant chess” (45). This refers to Romans preparing for battle—but also to Donald Trump. In fact, “Mars Ultor” was read aloud at the Trump Tower by (highly literate) protestors.