Tuesday 10 January 2023

Five Poems by Rustin Larson




Captain America pretends he is a Viking

and has a globular, glowing fairy companion.

Listen, listen!” the fairy insists. A cardinal

warbles from some place Captain America

can't see. Captain America takes off his Viking horns

and has a drink of water from a bottle.

He asks himself, “I feel like people hate me,

but is that really true?”


My father solders something onto a circuit board.

Don't let 'em shit ya!” he says as the solder

smoke twists like incense into the heat lamp.

I have hair in my eyes and hair on my shoulders.


I hear my mother's voice. She says the neighbour's

house is dirty, but to me dirt is dirt.

Man, could she clean. She'd strip the wax

and then wax again. She would polish

the leaves of the philodendron. The clock

would click its slow applause. The sunlight

would drift across the room.

She would turn on her music and cry.

She would wash out her eyes

until everything was pure.


I sit here thinking of the present,

the small striped shirt

I wore to play in the sun. I can smell

the sand, the cat shit, and I can hear

the whisper of the maple leaves. She has made

something for me to drink. I come to the door,

I hold the cup. It is the colour of plums

and is sweet. The hornets are busy

with their nests. The violets tremble

across the lawn like bouquets of brides

who sleep.


We get lost. I say I want to find us again.

We walk the burning sidewalk

with our beach towels rolled under our arms.

We have money for the pool and for Milk Duds.

The loudspeaker plays the ballad

of The Bloody Red Baron.

At the pool, I see a woman with blue numbers

tattooed on her forearm. She wears

a big floppy hat with fake daisies.

She leans back on a beach chair and reads

an Ian Fleming novel. She has white cream

on her nose. Her toenails are painted

the colour of blood. Children splash

in the pool and scream.


My father laid a brick path around part

of the house, brick from demolished barracks

in Fort Des Moines. My mother planted

moss roses where they could grow

along the brick and in not too much sun.

I would ride my tricycle on the brick road

even when it rained. I can still hear

water dripping on the moss roses.


The tree of fate is gone. It was a huge ash

with a branch that overhung the sidewalk.

The branch was almost as thick

as the trunk. Walk under it in a wind storm

and see what fate had to say. The sawn trunk

left a platform of rings for children

to burn snakes upon.


I taught the people what I know.

The ghosts floated nearby neither approving

or disapproving. Five orbs floated

near the pump organ. There were relics

from old churches in the room and walls

of mirrors to face infinity. I did the best I could.

My students wrote quickly and nervously

in their journals. Something had agitated the ghosts.

Round and round the chandelier they flew,

above the coarse table where we worked

feasting and starving on words.





Somehow, hamburgers were Scottish. Henry's dressed

their drink cups in green and red plaid, and their

burger wrappers too. There was a place called Sandy's

in the city where my aunt lived. Same shtick, but I digress.

Called by the green of spring, my mother and father

would sometimes take me to Henry's for supper,

and I'd have one of their burgers with minced onion,

and pickle slices, and ketchup. I'd eat a bag

of fries, and drink an orangeade, and climb

on the 1920s fire engine the Lions placed

on the playground of the sylvan park across

the street. I'd sit in the driver's seat

and spin the wheel. There was another

wheel in back for the ladder section to turn

imaginary corners. I'd spin that wheel,

1920s Des Moines burning to the ground,

an accompaniment of Keystone cops in the periphery

brandishing billy clubs. This was a celebration

for surviving a school year of bronchitis

and evil teachers. I took solace in my senses:

salt, savour, sweet orange. I poured my consciousness

into the interiors of small metal cars.

I played in the dirt under the sun. I scratched

strange symbols into the dust for friends to answer,

our secret code, connection in a world

we could not control.


How many places are called Homestead?

Pear trees, apple, cherry, apricot: mountains

of pies every November. The ghost people

would take us for walks by the limestone

hills near the river. We would smell honeysuckle

and hear the mourning doves cry in the mist.


It occurs to me, I am not one to complain: I'm awake,

the sky is grey, a steady breeze comes from the north.

It is our mini ice age. The monks lock the cellar.

The starlings fuss in the eaves. Someone's love

of the bard brought them here.


And now I find my young daughter has left

a drawing of a woman in a pink dress.

The woman's name is Qi. Her arms are sticks

and yet gracefully balance her sliding dance.

Her stick legs flow elegantly down to her charcoal

coloured shoes. Her hair curves in flips, simple

yet flowing. She smiles. Her dress is electric

with scribbles of pink.


There was a mountain or a bluff that overlooked

the confluence and the town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

The overlook might have actually been in Maryland.

The stone was reddish in colour. My daughter, if this

is a memory and not a dream, scootched out on the stone's edge.

Although our view was essentially the same,

she insisted on the experience was better there

on the edge of death (which, of course, needs little encouragement).

The view was nice, the sky was blue, you could see

the armoury where, essentially, the war began.

In this memory or this dream I will imagine

a buzzard circling above the two rivers, the glitter

of the water, ashes drifting in the wind. We walked

back down the path and drove

and shared a meal afterwards in Harpers Ferry: hamburgers,

fried potatoes, drinks as orange as the sun.





I knock off work and then

head to my wife's office

to make a cup of tea,

dash in some milk, drink,

and listen to a chipmunk chirp

outside her window. Out there

is the quad I'd wander

as a college student. I wrote

poems under a blue spruce,

a tree not native to Iowa.

I remember speaking

to a girl from Boston

who I didn't know

had a kind of autism.

She would end a conversation

abruptly and then just walk away

with snow in her hair.

I took it personally. I was ignorant.

Not too long ago

I sent her one of my books

which, I hear, she shredded

to tiny, tiny bits.


I sense that area of my heart,

my stomach, my lungs,

my intestines, my liver,

my kidneys, and my so forth,

and I see a drive

through the mountains,

through the treeline,

to a lookout from which

I can see four contiguous states,

a trail of smoke,

a front of cold weather,

and clouds black with rain

and veined with lightning.





Alien autopsy. Blizzard

in England. A small

television the shape

of a radio. Young Marilyn

Monroe in Hollywood.

Gandhi in India--

lots of bodies.

Ford is Finer in 47.”

Eleven days left

to prepare for transfer

of power. Miss Australia

salutes you. Dana Andrews

stars in “Boomerang.”

I turn and look at you.

Flying saucers from

hollow Earth, Pakistan.

The radio-controlled

guts of a theremin-singing

robot. Groucho

and Carmen star in “Copacabana.”

I light a Chesterfield.

I am glad the war is over.

I am going to sleep off

being a janitor six days a week.

Goodnight, Holy Angel.





A wasp flies into my water bottle.

I do not know this. I bring

The water bottle inside. The wasp

Climbs up to the lip,

Pulses his wings

A couple times, and then starts

Flying around the house.

He flies around all day,

But by sunset he’s exhausted

And he rests on the sink window

In the kitchen and looks

Longingly outside. I get

A drinking glass and a small

Square of cardboard. I place

The glass over the wasp

And give him a jiggle. He flies

Up to the bottom.

I slap on the cardboard.

The wasp

Buzzes and buzzes. I open

The courtyard door with my foot

And go outside.

I hold the glass upright.

The wasp

Dances on the rim a bit,

Gets his bearings, and flies away,

Drifting with a gust of wind,

Toward the huge maple tree.

Before long, night covers everything.

Rustin Larson's poetry appears in the anthology Wild Gods (New Rivers Press, 2021). Recent poems have appeared in London Grip, Poetry East, The Lake, Poetryspace, Pirene's Fountain, and Lothlorien Poetry Journal. His chapbook The Cottage on the Hill was published by Cyberwit.net in April of 2022. He is on faculty in Maharishi International University's MFA in Creative Writing program.


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