The poems below are reprinted by permission from John Amen’s poetry collection Christening the Dancer (Uccelli Press, 2003). John is the editor of The Pedestal Magazine, a notable online journal of poetry, short prose, and book reviews.
Reconciling with Stillness
It is not enough
to follow a map to familiar temples,
bulldozers in my stomach,
my spine bent to its breaking point,
secrets ripped from my groin
like sequoias uprooted in a hurricane.
I am filling holes, but also
crawling into them,
refusing to suck distraction’s oozing nipple,
even when my nerves
vibrate like a cheap doorstopper,
I feel loose dirt piling over me,
thirteen gravediggers burying me alive.
In Praise of Us
We are the winners, you and I,
traveling dirt roads that lead to junkyards,
hurling the thermometer into the crocodile’s mouth.
Always, their voices have been behind and before us,
that we have not walked by the tape measure
or turned our songs to science.
They gave us maps and exiled us,
laughed when we arrived at dry waterholes,
shook their heads as we ran with cheetahs.
But you and I,
we live in the center of the web,
feasting on our heartaches,
turning stone to water, icicles to lava,
using crosses as kindling.
We stand in the fusillade,
refusing to camouflage ourselves.
Every bullet swallowed turns to gold in our bowels.