Tuesday 12 July 2022

Five Poems by Edwin Staples



Before fourth grade

Nobody talked to me on the bus 

I had plenty of time to observe. 

Eldon was the boss down our end of town. 

From the apple trees to the field that flooded. 


Up the other end was a different story. 

Peter and his cousins held 

From that field

to the only repair shop in town.

I never saw any of them challenge Eldon. 


My mother said he was the politest boy in town. 

Lizzie called him gay. 

When I asked what that meant, 

She got swatted by Ma’s back scratcher. 


Noisy Rich messed with Eldon’s baby sister

Poor slob didn’t know what hit him. 

Eldon was skinny but his fists were chain link

The bus driver watched the whole thing 

Never said a word. 


On a dare, I crank-called Eldon’s sister

She passed the phone to him. 

“You think you’re somebody,” Eldon said, with that accent. 

After that I never looked at either of them, 

Afraid my face would give me away.

A Thousand Books


My sister Ellen read a thousand books 

before she died.


I often quit reading 

before the story is over.


I’m afraid I’ll cry over some dog’s grave

Or fall for a young woman 

Who died a hundred years ago.


She’d say, I don’t know him,

And yawn like Courtney used to do. 



There’s a name I haven’t said 

in more than 30 years.


Tall Jon said she ignored all boys

But I noticed one she liked, 

The boy who hardly spoke. 


Ellen called the quiet boy the math genius of the century,

Courtney wasn’t the only one sighing over him. 


I see it was easier to read their lives.

They were half as real as Huck Finn or 

Emma Jean Finch. 


Courtney had the lead roles on stage, 

A hundred sisters and a single brother. 

She went to London the spring of senior year

And spoke with an accent until September. 


Books can scare me even now,

Because of the truth in there. 

Real people don’t have that luxury.

Rides of Life

shitbox car,

Like a hamburger

Or a good kisser with no personality.

You can feel that passion,


That greasy, arousing wrongness. 


But then you'll be cold;

The breakdown;

That walk home;

That pit gut;

Saying "no more.”


One day you find the dependable one

Maybe not brand new, 

But the heat works.

There are no spots where you park.

It starts every time.


Years of no stalling out.

You can depend on the ride

It doesn't give you fear of breaking down 

You forget what that was like.


More years go by.

A shitbox appears.

It has that logo,

That stripe,

20 years of coins in the tray.


You look away,


And recall that kiss.

Did You Hear?


People like to hear about death and crime.

Violence, robbery, killers doing time.

But don’t bother them with everyday pain,

Or hungry neighbours caught out in the rain.


Did you hear?

Did you hear?

It's a horrible tale.

Mothers like her should go to jail.

Did you hear?

Did you hear?

Tell me what she did!

In the oven they found her youngest kid.


Small town families have their horrors--

Incestuous affairs or guns in drawers.

No one beats that sick Louisa.

Better go back and check the freezer.


When I turned sixteen I finally found out,

I was the kid the tale was about.

Maybe it's funny in retrospect,

Still I’m filled with shame if I reflect.


Everything happens for a reason, I'm told.

Just think well and you'll see it unfold.

My mother never roasted a baby of course,

But humans are known to do so much worse.


Did you hear?

Did you hear?

It's a horrible tale.

Mothers like her should go to jail.

Did you hear?

Did you hear?

Tell me what she did!

In the oven they found her youngest kid.

Invisible Servants

After church 

Go have pancakes

Take a walk through the mall.

Ignore all your servants.

They nod and smile, 

Or ignore you back

Or seethe with anger. 


Over your head,

Under your feet,

Between your fingers,

A team of millions have assembled.


They made that watch, those socks, that lampshade of faux Tiffany 

Next to the couch,

The one you set to low 

When Fallon is on.


His servants are many.

They pay a guy to laugh at him.

They film him, brush him, polish his face. 

His servants are many

And so are yours.


I have a suggestion

You should learn to shoot rats

How to skin them, cook them, eat them 

All with a pointy stick.


When your servants finally get fed up. 

You won’t have a fork. 

Edwin Staples is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, an archivist, a librarian, and the son of two nurses. He resides in Seattle, Washington with his wife Rachel, and their cat, China.

Edwin’s "Colorado" appears in Anti-Heroin Chic in 2019, and "Civic Center" in Creativity Webzine in 2020. As a Bowdoin College student he was the editor-in-chief of The Quill magazine.

1 comment:

  1. Kathy McMullen27 June 2023 at 06:20

    Love all the stories embedded here. Now I want one about China.


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