Carlos Reyes: Four Poems


Terror in the Garden

The 12 apples on the plate
the plate not silver
but common clay

For 12 Adams 12 Eves
in a swirl around it

The dancers have abandoned
the 13th piece of fruit

What is it and
for whom does it wait?

How many sharp finger
nails or teeth will it take

to dig from it
the myriad of seeds?

The fruit
in other languages
they call

a grenade

Some Thoughts I Have at the
Oregon Steel Mills

     —in memory of Kurt Vonnegut

I wonder at those giant toys
Euclids coming out of Hades
the slag they freight
molten and glowing
in the pre-dawn
grey hours of another rainy day

And marvel at the condemned
men in orange coveralls, hard hats
and dark empty goggles
who pilot the “Big Eucs”
the flames of the inferno
licking at their backs

They drive hopelessly fast
demons trying to escape
the fire they carry, then

dump their cooling slurry
onto the slag heap
and race back to Hell
for another load

Through windshields’ dark grime
cigarettes glowing coals
between white teeth
in blackened faces . . .

Would Dante have placed them in this low circle
of meaningless tasks
loading Hell’s fire on one side
of the lake and removing it to the other?

Were their crimes ours? Society’s? Ones
that Italian could never have dreamed of?

In our other life
we drove the trucks of war,
tanks with flame throwers,
half tracks with rocket launchers . . .

We were the ones
who introduced eternal burning
phosphorous, the one invention
Dante would have delighted in. . .

We flew the planes . . .
We firebombed Dresden

Something I Saw in Portugal

Through the night on a train with wooden benches
we stopped at every roaring village
where young men were bound
in drunken celebration
of hoped for future glory in Angola:
A drunken boat, no, a drunken train

That reminded me of my daughter
of a trip she took across China’s backyard
where at every station
the men were drunk––puking in alleys,
staggering, screaming––pounding fists
on dusty Pullman car windows
––weaving dangerously near live rails

Celebrating no victory
present or future
no defeat, they drank
apparently to deal with
a kind of deadly ennui
we will never know

Ode to Refreshment

Bring me
this morning
in a cup
not wine––too early
for ambrosia––
but from that
dusty shelf
in the corner
by a hobo spider
this July morning

Bring me
the tin cup
dip it
in the
achingly cold
running spring

Bring me
elemental water
to drink

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