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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

[Two Poems]

by Robert Joe Stout

Break Up

I didn’t cast the leads
nor write the entrances. The setting
emerged from a busted comedy
that had run a month past rehearsals.
Nor did I have a script. I waved
like a drunken flagman chasing
a runaway freight. The clown’s cries
butterflied the deserted stage.
The cast evaporated and a juggler
imported from Brazil
drank what was left of my wine.
By November I was alone,
my act on the shelf.

I did what I could, old ham
with a vaudeville hat
that kept falling out of my hands.
The leaves in the trees
applauded my one-footed dance.
By morning they were gone and the landlord
demanded his rent. I gave him my tongue
and a piece of my heart
that was slowly, like cobwebs,
mulching into dark marquees,
the loneliness of winter.


Two A.M.

Hand against the garage door I squint
toward stars moving through the clouds’ thin gauze.
Something in the lone palmetto moves.
Lizard? Bird? Or am I here through
sleeper’s eyes, a walking dreamer seeing
things collected by my mind? Shadows
skim the ivy clinging to the fence,
ripples darting through the film
that separates my sight from night. My brother
careens past
		twin carburetors sucking gas... 
But is it him?
		Here now?
			  Or twenty years ago?
I smell the oil on his shirt, stare at twenty-dollar bills
he shoves into my hand...
			  Clasp Mom, 
an off-to-base-maneuvers-I’m-okay goodbye...
whores one Easter morning,
				Jim, my college roommate
shouting “Huevos rancheros, c’mon girls!”
A tiny metal cross,
			my first child gone,
but other children, later, laughing.

I played in as a child,
		purring cats,
a dead ewe’s eye...
			each and all defining...
			Shadows overlap
the shadows overlapping worlds
the palmetto seems to know. I reach

towards them with liquid fingers,
hook them earthward, close my eyes.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Robert Joe Stout

is a poet, fiction writer, and journalist whose books include the poetry volumes Monkey Screams (FutureCycle Press, 2015) and A Perfect Throw (Aldrich Press, 2013), both of which have received critical acclaim; the novels Where Gringos Don’t Belong (Anaphora Literary Press, 2015), Running Out the Hurt (Black Rose Writing, 2012), and Miss Sally (Bobbs-Merrill, 1977); and three nonfiction books about the culture and politics of Mexico: Hidden Dangers: Mexico on the Brink of Disaster (Sunbury Press, 2014), Why Immigrants Come to America: Braceros, Indocumentados, and the Migra (Praeger, 2007), and The Blood of the Serpent: Mexican Lives (Algora Publishing, 2003).

His fiction and poetry have been anthologized in a variety of publications, including New Southern Poets and Southwest, and his articles, reports, essays, commentaries, and creative nonfiction appear in dozens of print and online publications including The American Scholar, America, The Tishman Review, and Modern Maturity.

Stout is a graduate of Mexico City College (now the Universidad de las Americas); has served on human-rights delegations, the board of directors of an asilo de ancianos, and the editorial staffs of newspapers and magazines; and has won national journalism awards for news writing. An acknowledged baseball aficionado and the father of five children, he currently lives in Oaxaca, Mexico.

“...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