Saturday, February 20, 2016

Three Poems by Dana Yost

Voodoo Blue

Dogs and cats,
chickens and bone.
Everything is coming up blue,
except the yard lights going out
all across farmland,
smothered from disuse,
victims of a plague,
fed to the bulldozer.

The dark side of the moon,
this sea of fertility.
Keep your eyes
on the road,
your hands upon
the throat.
Now:  give me
seven of those honky-tonk
chords on a tack piano, fast, like rain
escaping jail,
then a harmonica
and its feral-cat thing,
uh-huh, that's it:
madhouse blues.

Cross your heart
and try not to bleed.
This is not a prayer.
Eat a bone,
pet the dog.
Remember?  Her name
was Trixie.  She was
your grandfather's
and they buried her
in the hole
within the grove.
Nose wet and cold,
            how she lapped
at the silver-tin water bucket,
think tail wagging like a bone
in a voodoo woman's paw.
I don't want to live in the past,
but the past keeps trying to live in me.

Here's a field stone:  black, streaked
with chalk-like white, weight
of an anvil.  Heave it
upon your back.  It says:
turn cold against
the world if you want
to survive it.

My Best Shoes

My best shoes
are already by the front door,
toes pointed forward so all
I'd need to do is step into the brown
leather and walk away.
Should I?
Or should I
ask how the shoes
got to where they'd gotten?

Was I running away
at last, eloping alone
out of this stiff, arid
town of drawn-tight shades,
dead-still streets,
where no one dances unless
it's for money,
where a laugh in a public place
doesn't get you stared at,
but psychoanalyzed over
venison steak and warm ramekins
of bread pudding?

If I wasn't, I ought to be.
A stillness now,
a certainty, the world deep-breathing
and gathering muscle,
and it says do this,
tie the laces
and see what
you become.

The Watching

I watched you watching
him:  the man checking out
at the dollar store, struggling
with his two bags of disparate items.
He wore a tie-dyed shirt with chaotic red,
blue, yellow swirls:
it looked like he'd spilled the ink,
he looked like a human lollipop.
His half-hunched back, the way he dragged
his left foot behind the right, ball cap
pulled on so many times the bill had gone flat.
When someone held the door open
and he halted as he pushed the cart
to say "thank you, man," you saw
he was without front teeth, upper or lower.

Did you mumble to yourself?
Back up a step,
protecting your highly mightiness?
I think
you did.
But do not think
others do not watch you
the way you watched him.
Watch your laborious pecking and poking
through the aisles of this same store,
watch you reach over the head
of a brown-haired girl,
nab the loaf of bread
she was reaching for,
pivot, and toss it into your cart.

Watch as you check out,
someone else holding open
the door, waiting
for you to leave.

Dana Yost is an author of four books and a chapbook, and currently is working on a major history about America in 1940.  Yost's poems have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, as well as several Kind of a Hurricane Press anthologies.  Yost is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

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