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SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

[Five Poems]

by Paul-Victor Winters

You & Me & the Waitress & the Rest of the World

The waitress says she is no longer Cuban. You were once married to a Cuban, but you see no need to mention it. You order the Farmer’s Omelet and you will probably slide your home fries onto my plate without discussion. Kids in a back booth play a game with their uncle’s glass eye. On the wall-mounted TV, pods of orcas circle TV crews on boats and will continue until after nightfall. Researches will discuss their complicated, clumsy, mouthy emotions. I don’t realize I’ve been given the wrong order until I’ve already started in, and the TV shows a mother orca and her calf. One interviewer smiles awkwardly at a marine biologist, who is crying. Gas prices have been dropping, though, and we’ve avoided most of this season’s hurricanes. We order more coffee. Two snowmobilers enter the diner and stomp the outside off of their feet. I recognize one of them from high school, but memory need not act once its eyes have blinked awake. And we ought to tip the waitress, who is at the end of her shift, and whose bus will arrive at its stop shortly. And there is a wait, I imagine—a growing line waiting for us to finish, just finish, bring the rest home in a bag.



The Taking of a City

Because one religion works to defeat another. Because it is not the nature of the State to allow others. Rubble. Something that was once a marketplace. Partial wall of a partition, roads that lead only to rock piles. Because one has bronze and the other has iron. A field of horse bones. A grand staircase attached to nothing. Dog carcasses in a mound, near the skeleton of a church, shards of stained glass scattered about the dry soil. Because one archduke insulted another. Because one Emir went syphilitic and land-hungry. A falconer’s empty coop, empty carts missing wheels, old women living in abandoned goat stalls. Because it’s what we do. Because it is the Lenten season. Soldiers marching the main road, some without shoes. Rat hoards. Because strength is weakness. And for the sake of posterity. And for the hell of it.

—Previously published in Full of Crow (October 2013);
reprinted here by author’s permission



Family Tree

Gertrude off a bridge. Mathilda on a train track. And all of her children, save one, dead by twenty. The last time I ate blackberries was in 1775, crisp taste of change in the air. Grandmother cooked squirrel meat in gravy and served it over thick noodles. My sisters, Rheinlanders, continue to run from the ghost of a drowned uncle. Amsterdam. Ipswich. Aunt Winnifred. Grandfather Eudes. The first time I ate blueberries was a century ago. I arrived in a large steamship from Fredrikstad. I came to research lineage and to fight as a mercenary. Epke at the gallows. Hendrik by the rope. It is true we have weak stomachs and defiant livers. Christians with sticky fingers. Welshmen with gluttonous appetites for sins of the flesh. Obsessive compulsion from the Swedes. Gout from the Frisians. I am following my lost uncles. Forgive me for leaving, satchel of stolen, bruised fruit, swung over my shoulder. I have heard there is a large, new world worth visiting.




Once, there was a blue Bonneville parked outside. And pines. No eviction notice was sent. Next door, the TV repairman and his sad wife. Across the street, a widow with walls of fading pictures and misaligned wallpaper stripes. And evergreens out front. It was summer, then it was fall. It was loneliness, then it was hustle and bustle. Once, the Mr. Chips truck parked in the widow’s driveway. The mailman worked slowly. Once, there were several owls nesting in the eaves of a storm-shuttered roof. One clothesline for three families. Grandkids on weekends making a mess of crumbling curb-ends. Air thick with obituary slumber. Time is a sore loser. Even memory is sepia-toned. Pale mailboxes with bent red metal flags. Birdbaths moldy with autumn’s divorcee leaves. Downed wires. Once, Christmas decorations hung in windows until March. Now, the hollowed-out cul-de-sac sinks, resigned foundations going weak, septics backing up. Time. All the yellowed junk mail adrift in the breeze. The ground a carpet of crisp, orange needles. Squirrels in the backyard sheds. The drafty windows are widows, now, too. Air thick and duo-toned. It was fall, then it was winter.



Nightly News

And here, a story about our war,
told with a reasonable care.
A Jiggedy Jig and a Bumbley Bumb.

TV viewers are captive tenants 
to councils, parliaments, and senates.
Bippity Boo and Dippity Dum.

Suicide blasts and no-fly zones.
Bags of bodies and boxes of bones.
Glibbity Glee and Glibbity Goo.

Between commercial breaks, blood.
Woulds, and coulds, and a should.
Lickity Split and Speckley Moo.

There is no end to this, our wars.
A Muckity Muck and a Globbity Gore.


SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

Paul-Victor Winters

is a writer and teacher living in Southern New Jersey. He works for The Geraldine Dodge Foundation’s Poetry Program and for Murphy Writing of Stockton College. Other poems have appeared in journals such as 2Rivers Review, Crack the Spine, and Shot Glass Journal.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury