“and even you forgot those brilliant flashes seen from afar” -Ruth Stone

Matthew Rohrer

YEVTUSHENKO WAS THE KING

When the drunk Russian
on the F train pulled out
his flask, people moved
to other seats, but not me.

He said: you’re reading Yevtushenko
in English. I was. He told me
his father, in the Thaw,
of which Yevtushenko was the king,
wore jeans with battery-powered
xmas lights up and down the legs.

Do you have to go? he said. I had
gathered my things, we were
at my stop, I would like to hear
him in English. I said I’m sorry,
I have to go, and I went
and I’m still going.

 

 

POEM FOR MIROSLAV HOLUB

The Gloomy Octopus lives
inside the book forever

while the tea kettle is boiling
I can look into its eyes

and it stares back at me
but does not love me

for it is gloomy, and
the octopus inside the book forever

is made of ink that reflects
light and is reflected in the mind

and what the mind makes
says Holub, is only there to shore up emptiness

“the primary and secondary emptiness”
which he never explains

 

 

VILLETTE VILLANELLE

Lying underneath a Sweetgum tree
in a foreign country under the sun
following the swallows only less free

Lying underneath a Sweetgum tree
in a foreign country under the sun
following the swallows only less free

the sun is at its height, she joins me
years later she still thinks I’m the one
following the swallows, only less free

by just a little, like we’re all doomed to be
sometimes her sad face brightens, she says it’s fun
lying underneath a Sweetgum tree

with the kids, did I mention them? there are three
because we brought the best friend of my son
following the swallows only less free

like everyone in love but with a family
who drifts away from themselves & is stunned
lying underneath a Sweetgum tree
following the swallows, only less free

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Matthew Rohrer is the author of Satellite (2001), A Green Light (2004), Rise Up (2007), They All Seemed Asleep (2008), A Plate of Chicken (2009), Destroyer and Preserver (2011), and The Others (2017), winner of the Believer Book Award. Read more