The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Tom C. Hunley

Sonnet I


What did Tom know about the human heart
Thrown out the window of a burning house

He would have said he had a chronic case
As if a person were a body, not
The pages of a bible that flew up
Then blew some minds by landing in a vase

Let’s hope he lives forever as an app,
A thousand thousand candles on his cake

To make Tom feel a soap bubble’s despair
Help him into the buttless gown you’ll find

All of his weary travels tore this life
From him: oh how the years tore out his hair

Now eyes like olives drenched in alcohol
Sting like a sunbeam in a prison cell,



Tom C. Hunley

Wearing Suits The Way Trees Wear Snow


Here lies Tom C. Hunley
killed a little by cold that coated him
a little by hunger that chewed on him
but mostly by bosses writing him up
for not working hard enough fast enough
the coffee wearing off the man wearing out
wearing suits the way trees wear snow

Life had become waiting
at a bus stop in a soaked suit
holding an empty candy wrapper
feeling like an empty candy wrapper
listening to the rain speaking
in its language that the sheltered
don’t understand and death felt like
the rush of a waterfall
followed by a lofty launch
like a migrating flock
once more at home
among the clouds that float
with no deadlines, no clocks to punch,



Tom C. Hunley

I Drink Carpet Cleaner And Meet The Wind’s Lonely Sister


Here lies Tom C. Hunley
poisoned when he reached for his beer
and drank carpet cleaner instead

Such an easy mistake
like confusing the wrong woman’s voice
for music rather than noise
or believing the light leaving a lamp
might be a wish-granting genie
its vagrant grace glinting faintly

Light is the bright shadow of darkness
if you want to know
and Death is the wind’s lonely sister
the one no one asked to prom

We could bury Tom C. Hunley in the cheapest coffin

We could listen to the minister
his secret doubts creeping
through the cracks in his voice

We could listen to the distant barking
of a dog, waiting, like us,
to be let in from the cold

But no, let’s spread his ashes on water
where ocean is buried under rain
where the after-color of whale backs
deepens the shadows,




TOM C. HUNLEY is a professor who teaches in the MFA/BA creative writing programs at Western Kentucky University. He has published hundreds of poems in literary journals such as Margie, American Poetry Journal, and National Poetry Review. He’s also the director of Steel Toe Books and the lead guitarist/vocalist of Night of the Living Dead Poets Society.



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