The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Philip C. Kolin

The Anatomy of a Secret

 

It starts festering you
alone.

Inside a thorny stillness,
then a muffled voice

rakes over
your accusing selves,

your mind turned
into a jury peering

into the docket
where your lips

and eyes are
being arraigned.

Then come whispers,
ajar,

a woman in a noir dress
summoned to testify,

double malt infidelities--
upside down smiles;

waste paper baskets locked
so billet doux cannot be

read twice, but one has --
at the wrong address.

The secret outed
in open court

sworn words,
heaved sobs;

a reputation capsized 
in tears.

The news tars
someone's ears

who once heard
musicals in your voice.

Now everyone pokes holes  
through your threadbare conscience.

Awake and trembling --
you feel like a severed corpse

under your own
bed sheets.

 

 

Philip C. Kolin

The Day the Sun Wore a Monocle

 

The day the sun wore a monocle
latitudes sent condolences to each other.

Someone lost the moon
which underwrote Hollywood.

History ran backwards but memory evaporated;
time zones warped into each other.

Nightshades grew in patriotic spaces;
it was hard to see the stars on the flag.

Ghosts invaded the suburbs; property values
dropped; light became a marketable commodity.

People on subways discovered how many
selves they toted in their dreams.

Boys in Oregon caught meteors in nets
and scaly fish turned into flashlights in Wyoming.

Pomegranates and tomatoes were exiled or
under attack by spear grass and chokeweed

People of faith sent their rosaries
to be bleached at the dry cleaners.

All this unfurled
the day the sun wore a monocle.

 

 

Philip C. Kolin

The Black Blizzard, 1935

 

It started with a black blizzard, the soil
we lived on and were buried in
swept away by winds whipped up
from a sky harboring a desert's revenge. 
Every day was Ash Wednesday.
Dust begat dust-- our ancestral dead
blown away in their coffins.

Our memory of green splintered into
brittle amnesia. My sister never saw
flowers, stems or bloom. Even in books
their images shriveled away. 

The land which got pregnant yearly
aged, frail and wrinkled, thin as air
without oxygen. Animals suffocated
with every breathe they inhaled.

The fields stared back at us,
stiff stalks bankrupt of color.
Eyeless ghosts crept in
at night to sleep there.
We avoided sleep, terrified
we would wake as stalks of dust. 

We packed our windsewn dreams
like those bits and pieces of tombstones
proving our family had planted lives here
and fled west.

The bleak, black sun tried to catch us
but we lost him
on the other side of Los Alamos,
a place so fertile you could harvest
the clouds billowing like white- capped mushrooms,
ready for the picking.

 

 

 

PHILIP C. KOLIN is the University Distinguished Professor of English (Emeritus) at the University of Southern Mississippi where he edits the Southern Quarterly. He has published over 40 books on Shakespeare and contemporary playwrights and eight collections of poetry, the most recent being Emmett Till in Different States (Third World Press, 2015) and Benedict's Daughter: Poems (Wipf and Stock, 2017).

 

 

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