The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Jon Veinberg



When the shades
                are snapped shut,
days fold into night,
                nights fog the day
and when the curtain is lowered
                to a level where
the only light left
                is the one leaking
through the unpatched
                gaps of the roof
now shadowed by
                mist, leaf-hang
and horned bird claw.
                When the wind
becomes a hustler
                of the slow-lobbed
clouds and the alone
                star turns white
as a weasel’s tooth
                under a fast
rising August moon
                and the lobster
shift cop sits in his car
                under the oaks,
considers the webbed
                lines of his palm
and sings “ Going Going
                Gone “ to a sunrise
that bleeds the good eye
                of the crackhead
shivering in his duffeled
                coat, each step
a rattle of bones
                criss-crossing the
Van Ness Ave. tracks
                heading south
to a lineup of clinics
                and Army cheese.
When grace has passed
                into a knothole of breath
and the sparrows refuse
                to surge upward
and the dog napping
                on the back porch,
with its burned out bulb
                won’t nudge awake,
a water bowl of dead moths
                at its nose
and when the last soldier
                to leave Cambodia
parachute doesn’t open
                and the 2 year old
swallows water in the frigid
                waves of the Baltic,
salt gungeing its lungs,
                will all ask for more
time and for us, angels
                of the everyday,
are to stand stone-cold
                by their side
on the doorway steps
                on their way out,
prop them up
                to stand nose to nose
with the devil as he haggles
                their sins. And it never gets
easy, butting heads with
                Jesus, not as hard as what
my shadowy cousin Bob,
                the angel of explosives,
doled out to the Fat Man
                bombers of Nagasaki,
with the same, equal dose
                of mercy and severity
as trying to mend
                the ripped quilt
of an ocher sky
                with loose thread.



Jon Veinberg

Yellow Jackets


That afternoon-searing of the low
scudding clouds grew stock-still,
sparrows hid behind a lock of leaves,
dogs pined for shade,
and the children whose mothers
packed their lunches with Cheez-its
and mozzarella sticks abandoned
their Chinese checkers, ran,
screaming and holding their ears,
flying blind over the browned grasses,
under the shell-shocked wisteria pods
and widow weeds of Roeding Park,
trusting the clay-bottomed earth
not to trip and swallow them. The
sun threw its lancets of light
into the green spears of their eyes
while a swarm of yellow jackets
dotted the sky, cleaved the horizon,
and chased them into a net
of crackling, waxy leafed privets,
next to the flax bushes gleaming
as a miraged sheet of blue ink
wafering the harbor of Huntington Lake.
It could have been the same light
that flashed through the eyes
of a dead soldier I saw on CNN
lying at the side of the road,
his legs hurdling the ditch
just before the bomb went off. The
dragon fruit dropped. The mahogany
tree shivered in the smoke filled margins
of sky while a billow of yellow jackets
buzzed through the dark grape
of his forehead…

                        Multiple-eyed husks
of bean, yellow striped black crystals
climbing the cheeks of drunks in doorways
as if they were Saharan mounds
of sugar, pebbles of nectar and noise
thrown from the bushes by the devil’s arm;
don’t send your fleet of scavengers
to scroll my body when I collapse
at the doorstep after having watered
the spiked salvia and lantana blooms
of my front yard,
stirring up the August dust,
hosting the red glaze of blood
and wind tangling my hair.
Menacing butterflies of pain,
you must have been born out of the womb
and fury of a mad sun to have picked
the eyelashes of the dead
to wear as your wings
or like most of the world—
were born hungry with the promise
of a long and easy life. I refuse to let
my ear be disguised as your
beehive to the earth, your palace
of honey-combed jewels waiting
to be lanced by another nation of wasps.
I’ll will my ashes to the wind,
away from your grubby bites
and stinging scars, far from the neon drone
of your music. I’ll wish those ashes to tumble
down as specks of soul spotting
the windshield of a slant six Dodge Dart
speeding down Highway 1 under a red sky
toward Half-Moon Bay and I’m eighteen,
salt breeze and gulf weed spackle
my tongue. My laughter drowning out
the waves, my voice a woeful squall of gulls
framing the road, my hand swatting
the unblemished air, a wilderness of wind.



Jon Veinberg

BLT with Avocado & a Bloody Mary


It might be something I wish for
when I’m dying, something more complete
than the granite face of El Capitan,
or more at peace than the chimed eyes
of Tibetan monks calling out for their flock
of hungry ghosts, or more rooted
than the panhandler caged in shadow
in the corner parking lot off Wishon.
I admit it, I almost lost my soul
to deep fried chicken claws and deviled eggs.
But when I bit into that crunchy bacon,
thick slabs of foliaged fat carved
from the underside of the moon’s belly,
my mouth turned into a grease-splotched
shouting sermon. I swined and sinned,
sherds of black soul took their redemptive
places while the moored and trusty
tenement of my tongue began to dream

                                        The poetry gods
must have been drunk on time and darkness
when they watched Omar and I patching up
our poems over a bowl of freshly picked
avocados. We would halve them,
pepper them with our words and use the shells
as ashtrays, then chant for the stray clouds
to find their long lost verbs and the stars
to toss their dice our way. We would bury
the pits and hope that our wrangled phrases
would pick up the scent of this valley’s
fern-rich loam only to return as the green
and dazzling jewels of early April.

                                                To bite into a dew
covered tomato is to bite into a slice of sunrise
streaming its river of light into my cheeks.
A young boy is sneaking out of his 2nd floor
apartment behind the potato chip factory.
He is cracking a pocket full of walnuts
against the curb as he follows an elbow
of stars north toward the canal bank,
through a slaw of gopher snakes, browned
bermuda, and puncture vines, stopping
only to adjust the Red Ryder strapped
across his shoulder and to yank out
the stickers lodged into his bare feet. He
hears the slosh of water and points
his penlight into the scrub and stir of crickets.
He finds the red eyes of squirrels
and upstart tomatoes climbing and dwarfing
the willows. He munches the tomatoes.
They go down easier than the syrup
of canned peaches nesting the cupboards
of home. He notices how its blood matches
the color of his gashed feet and how
easily its juices accept his throat.

                                            I put my faith
in heaven’s oven to hold it all together,
thick skin of a marbled sour dough baguette,
the fresh smell of pumpernickel seed gone
to flesh has been known to steer many
a sober-scarred saint mad, all washed down
with the wild haired bird of life’s zesty pour
of fire and ice rescued from hell’s furnace.
I’ll glut the night and drink the day, wait
for heaven’s harness to lift me up. It won’t
be a smooth ride but it hasn’t been a cake
walk down here either. I’ll watch the ships
shrink into a shimmering horizon of uncharted
stars. And for old time’s sake I’ll lick my lips
and once again taste the salt of poetry.




JON VEINBERG lives in semi-retirement in Fresno, Ca. He is the author of five poetry collections, the latest of which is Angels At Bus Stops (Lynx House Press Press). He has published poems in numerous magazines and anthologies and been the recipient of two NEA fellowships.



Previous  |  Next