EXPANSIVE POETRY ONLINE
A Journal of Contemporary Arts 

 

POEMS  

by

ARTHUR MORTENSEN

____________

CLASS CLOWN

Now most of us loquacious birds resolved
To hold our own against the thugs who’d rule
Our nests by right of what they own. But some --
I’m thinking now of our friend Andrew B --
Act out the role of intellectual jester.
While teasing tyrants, he adores them more.
And Andrew has what my love calls the gall
To manufacture rationales for power --
We sometimes call him Machiavelli’s parrot.
And when we have the glory of his visits,
He chats and caws away all day until
The only choice for hearing something else
Is move away. But he pursues us still,
And by his ranting hoping to impose
The fantasy his masters hold about
Themselves, that they alone originate
The words we say. And if we disagree
We are revanchist gangsters, fascist pigs
Whose only gift is to repeat what villains
Release outside the normal chain of chat.
But who, save them, can match with that description?
Because they have the power to dominate
The room with noises from themselves (or Andrew)
They do precisely mirror what they hate,
And by their screaming do illuminate.

 

WITNESS

The fall of a sparrow, unremarked, drew close
Attention from a passing nun. Her dress
Proclaimed her secular. A dangling cross,
However, called to mind a distant vow
When few who witnessed shared her firm belief.

We knew what was expected, for the brief
On managing the fallen did allow
Us moments to consider such a loss.
We stared, but, to relieve her own duress,
She knelt and pressed her palms, to juxtapose

Her observation with our own, dispose
Our doubts against her faith, and thus to press
Her now against our future. Then, to gloss
Our sketchy choices, and perhaps endow
Our presence with a measure of real grief,

We offered her an unstained handkerchief
To wrap the feathered dead. She touched her brow,
But otherwise remained an albatross,
Soaring above our hapless heads to bless
Before she hung about our necks. A rose

Uprooted from a church's garden spent
Last moments trying to cover up her scent.

 

 

 

Visitor

I heard a tiny noise, the click of claws
On furniture. I wasn't startled, no.
A window open with no barring screen
Was invitation to a visitor.
I caught a glittering eye and switched on lights
To be confronted by a silent crow.
I rose in bed to look more closely but
My dark companion neither moved nor breathed.
I don't keep birds, alive or dead, or know
A taxidermist with a sense of humor,
But crows are rarely known for brooding silence.
Although its stalwart stance and brilliant eye
To me suggested voiceless watchfulness,
A silent crow was much more likely dead,
Although -- standing by my bed, unlikely.
And so, without a laugh, or trace of knowledge,
I dared approach; the black thing didn't stir.
I reached, fingers extended, to touch its bill
Which did not open, snap or otherwise
Respond as if my touch would not be welcomed.
Its eyes lacked blinks or any other movement.
I stroked a single feather on a wing.
Its jet black barbs and barbules didn't quiver,
Nor did its square-cut tail wave up and down.
Its deep black claws remained precisely locked
As though the bureau's top were made of glue.
I watched a while but, growing weary, sat,
Then slumped, asleep against a heap of pillows.
At sunrise, when I started from a dream,
My bureau's top stood empty, clean and dry,
A proof the avian dead can sometimes fly.

 

The Shunning Game

 

The club's reunion meeting started late.

I noticed that our unelected leader

Had got herself all twisted in a speech.

She stuttered futures she could not define

Without resort to thick and dull abstractions.

This course of rhetoric convinced the man

Who stood inside my suit to step aside.

In this it looked to me I was unique,

For the members gathered hadn't doffed their suits

Confronted by conformity. Instead

They pleaded for acknowledgment by voice,

As if locution set them each apart.

I did raise mine at once, a clear, fine sound

Articulating nouns and verbs in order,

And aimed at answering every question posed.

Despite these merits, no one seemed to hear.

An old friend smiled but then she turned away.

In fact, I noticed many backs were turned.

I wondered if my tongue had gotten burned.

 

 

PUBLIC CONFESSIONAL

One thing Moira did; she paid attention,
Watching each move the Senator would make
Whether in the office or on tours
To greet constituents and major donors.
She watched his hands and arms as he campaigned.
He didn't hesitate to hug the men,
But for the women he would always bow,
Clasping his hands together, never crossing
A barrier as strong as ferro-concrete.
When called into his office, she saw much more:
His ground floor office was exposed to view,
The curtains open -- passersby would wave;
A gate on either side of his oak desk;
A line of chairs set carefully back from that;
And a door that never closed. The latter caused
Her some distress when she had failed a job,
Embarrassing both office and its holder.
She wanted to discretely tell her story.
"Don't close the door," he said, and stepped inside
His little fortress, stopping to acknowledge
A Pinkerton guard who paced the walk outside.
"So what's gone on?" he asked in normal voice,
I.e., one heard throughout the busy office.
An equal volume was her only choice
Lest some might hear in whispers proof of guilt.
"Well, live and learn," he said, turning to take
A call that loudly beeped his yellow cellphone.
She told me later she had felt alone.

 

Abandoned Out

A baseball streaked across the sky, and I,
Sensing a change of climate, chased that arc
Until it ended in a cracked old mitt
That someone'd dropped beside a heaping dumpster.
Nestled in that glove's unoiled pocket,
A prize awaited my acceptance of
Its accidental nature: how it fell
To gravity, not will; and then was caught
By no one visible. That called to mind
A question: if a fielder dropped his mitt
And that was all that kept a batted ball
From landing fair, would there be an out?
The only answer was a distant shout.

 


 

 

 

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