Four Poems by Robert Nazarene
(Married in America)
I’m having mixed emotions. Like the night
my ex-mother-in-law loopdy-
looped off a cliff
— in my new car,
a waste of a perfectly good Volvo.
Volvos seat six. Plenty of room
for the rest of her Coal-Age
brood — aggressive little pinheads
perched in their Lazy-Boys,
grimy as the dirty dishes, the dogs’ bowls,
the cat boxes — piled high
in the kitchen stink.
My ex-mother-in-law. The Orbicular.
God rest her sow. She ate
pickled pigs’-feet & drank Miller’s High-Life.
beer. For a living. And my ex-wife:
we were a match made in Gehenna,
living proof of God’s infinite loving-
kindness — making just 2 people
miserable, instead of 4.
If I sound bitter —
it’s because you are. Step aside.
I can’t fucking see myself in the mirror.
Published in Rattle.
Coming To (in) America
It was one of those things
you just have to
believe to see.
Let’s call him, Kenneth —
sitting statue still,
no, say: still as machete death —
in a silk, leopard-skin
tutu blouse and skullcap,
Parade Magazine in hand —
on a green-slatted
freshman orientation —
like a beautiful, black-eyed
on a rolling wave
of new-flaxen corn —
like a black plaster
(caught in the headlights), eyes
wide open onto
James Brady’s Interview
With Dan Rather,
(ruddy, red-blooded, American
as apple pie & shotguns
at a 4th of July
beside the Pedernales —)
Published in Ploughshares.
The Chicago Land
& Title Guaranty Company
Beginning in the southwest corner
of the Southeast Quarter of the Northeast Quarter
of Section 29, Township 31 North, Range 3 East:
is a flock of Hampshire sheep —
folded into a wooded hollow of fragrant clover & Timothy grasses —
by an ancient grove of sugar maples:
above a rugged tangle of woven-wire stretched from tree-to-tree
connecting a broken spine of stave-bolt fenceposts: all bound together
by a handshake.
Gentle Reader, if you please…the brakes. Stop. Stop!
Do I make my point?
All this & more — beside a winding, dirt-packed road
once teeming with legions of WPA workers & REA men — real
men, courtesy of FDR,
who raised the poles & fired the lines
which lighted the night
& caused the stars to dim — & wonder,
The lines which
yawned & stretched — then yawned & stretched again
all the way to Chicago/where so many sons & daughters fled
& Scenicruiser/into the metal mouth of the city;
where adding machines whirred & clicked . . .
& sheaves of paper were shorn
from giant rolls . . .
in factories made of brick
& bone . . .
into the stone precipice
of Michigan Avenue . . .
to this very building, here, (Yes . . . here)
where we stand,
The Chicago Land
& Title Guaranty Company,
with white-starched civility,
all who seek shall find
(Subject to any conflicts, encumbrances, rights-of-way not disclosed in the public records, easements, facts of survey, reservations, mineral or otherwise, any statutory lien[s], or other conditions or effects of law unbeknownst to the company . . .)
with enamel eyes,
we gaze upon the starless night: flabby, bald, lobotomized,
in a sheepish
calm . . .
Published in Beloit Poetry Journal.
I have known the ineluctable grief of waiting,
the desolation of fluorescence and its quiet
accompanist: the low drone of vending
The sadness of the silent switchboard;
of sleeping pushcarts, empty reception areas;
tunnelry of immaculate public spaces; the odor of antiseptic,
the pale standard face of nightshift workers; the grey
duplication of mornings; the quiet
clatter and clink of the cafeteria — slowly
Out the window,
on the street below, the clamor of children filling the crosswalk,
crowding the playground.
The baby got sick.
never woke up.
My baby: wrapped in linen,
stiff, still —
in her box.
Published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.