The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


David A. Bart



Camaraderie with peers eluded him.

Girls were a feline glance.

No school pranks or bonfire dalliance.


These days his canine extensions

and shallow cuts draw stares.

Older fringe boys share their mascara

and a faux grimoire, include him in a clan

that huddles at the vacant playground.

They thrill him with garish exploits 

that sound ripped from a gothic novel

but his own life still feels like a cheap comic

where action is made with black wavy lines.


Without his cloak and ashen makeup

he finds it hard to catch his reflection

in crowded store windows.



David A. Bart



Through the factory glass I watch

the second shift arrive. Mothers and daughters

cross a muddy stream, arm in arm, confiding

like schoolgirls. Behind the building

the smell of hot cement and menthol 100s.

From the chaparral comes the sizzle of cigar stubs

with capsule eyes: cicadas thrumming for rain

or conjugation until they're brown shreds.


On cue everyone drops their smokes

and pushes through the steel door painted blue,

a color my uncle says will trick the devil

into thinking it's the door to heaven.

A worker begins her weary blandishments

at the foot of the rapier loom, a lubricious

machine with a mind to grab her. Once

I saw a praying mantis catch a hummingbird.


Once I saw Ivanna leave work and she never

made it home. They blew up her face to poster size.

Underneath, where her name should have been –

Se Busca. There's a pink cross with her head-shot

nailed to it, one in a vast thicket of crosses.

They look like roses unable to bloom.


From my front door it looks like brass insects

my neighbor's child is plucking out of the dirt.

Estrellita skips across the yard jingling

her plastic bag of spent shells from a 45.

Constellations fizzle in the orange spray

of daybreak. Sunrise over Juarez: a reminder

that every little star is in fact a raging hell.



David A. Bart

Please Take Your Change


The last place we all appeared

together is here in front of me.


An exhausted paper lung, swollen

with age: the phone book, 1981.


15 years old and still chained to this black

and chrome payphone that looks like


a novelty trophy, last place award

to the vandal who left it out of order.


Repairmen dragging leather

pouches packed with jacks and wire


never came and never will. This book

is a time capsule I'd like to open,


just to see how easily I can make myself

sad by weighing the crumbling bulk


of its pages against the crumbling bulk

of remembrance. But the phone


and phone book dwell behind the glass

of a half-lit laundromat that closed at ten.


As I'm walking away the phone rings,

metal bells penetrating the wall of glass.


It's 1981 calling to find out if we're still here.

Wanting to know if we're going to be much longer.




DAVID A. BART ( is a writer from Arlington, Texas. His poetry is in the upcoming issue of I-70 Review and appears in The American Journal of Poetry, Poet Lore, Slipstream, Sixfold Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Margie, Cider Press Review, San Pedro River Review, Illya's Honey and Red River Review.



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