Monday, November 1, 2010

John Hoppenthaler  

Tree House

Take a walk down your block at three
in the morning. Listen to things

obscured by white noise in daytime:
gargle of a gutter at the end

of Limestone Lane; mild groans
from your neighbor’s tree house;

two maples daring just a little
closer to heaven. Vast orchards

of planets spin away into kilter.
Climb the rope ladder hanging there.

Sit in that far corner where high
moons filter through leaves

& over grass clippings, weekend roses
rot on the compost pile. Flickering

bats can barely be glimpsed dipping
darkness. It will be hard to leave

if you do it right. It will be awful
to stand down again on earth.

When Rachel's Father Moved Away

a week ago, she began to sing and still
hasn't stopped. I hear her now,
trilling through leaves, perched high
in the farthest crook of the apple tree.
Her mother's concerned. "Rachel
doesn't sing well," she jokes, forcing
a grin. "It's hard hearing her lullabies
falling asleep at night, and what
about school? Maybe it's just a phase."
Walking over to the gnarled trunk,
She grabs hold of each end of a board
he'd nailed there to serve as a ladder,
peers through the branches. "Rach,
sweetie, how about a sandwich?"
But Rachel isn't hungry. Suddenly
much younger, she's into a sing-a-long
learned years ago from Barney,
that lavender dinosaur on TV:
"I love you, you love me," she chants, picks
a big, green apple. She takes a bite,
and it's bitter; then, she takes another.

-both from his poetry collection, Anticipate the Coming Reservoir


―Ibn Batuta, a 14th century Moroccan,
became the Muslim world’s Marco Polo.

He crossed the Sahara expecting wealth
& robes of honor in Timbuktu. His gifts:
"three rounds of bread, a piece of beef
fried in gharti, a calabash with curdled milk."

Later, at a small feast of a root like taro,
all six of his party took ill. One died.
Batuta survived by forcing himself to vomit.

The world was larger than he’d imagined,
& in weakness he thought his dead friend lucky.
On the trip home, Batuta found he’d lost
rapport with the gait of camels but could now

derive a certain comfort by admiring endless
shapes of women lounging along the dunes.
The sand would never again be so forgiving.

-from his poetry collection, Lives of Water

Order To Go

Down on Main Street, the guy who owns Pizza Boutique
has bought out River Antiques
to open a family restaurant. Word in town has it that he's
got designs on Molly's, which
would rankle me―man doesn't smile, never acknowledges
my desire: "easy on the cheese."
Today I order a pie with grilled veggies, "easy on the cheese,"
head to Molly's for a quick pop,
maybe three. The barstool feels fine, like my ass tethers one
world to another, one life to hundreds
who've swiveled this seat, knocked back smoky shot glasses
of bourbon, felt heat course into
their flabby but always-hungry stomachs. Molly's sympathetic,
still easy on my eyes, and my ass
is reluctant; as I spin from the perch, lurch for the door,
it puckers up in an effort at tightness,
tries mightily to overcome the gravity of mozzarella.

-previously in The Innisfree Poetry Journal

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