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Poetry Winter 2017    fiction    all issues

Cover of Poetry Winter 2017 issue


Cover Thought-Forms

Laura Apol
On My Fiftieth Birthday I Return
& other poems

Jihyun Yun
& other poems

Jamie Ross
Red Jetta
& other poems

Sarah Blanchard
Carolina Clay
& other poems

lauren a. boisvert
Save a Seat for Me in the Void
& other poems

Faith Shearin
A Pirate at Midlife
& other poems

Helen Yeoman-Shaw
Calling Long Distance
& other poems

Sarah B. Sullivan
& other poems

Timothy Walsh
Metro Messenger
& other poems

Gabriel Spera
& other poems

Zoë Harrison
Pattee Creek
& other poems

AJ Powell
& other poems

Alexa Poteet
The Man Who Got off the Train Between Madrid and Valencia
& other poems

Marcie McGuire
Still Birth
& other poems

Kim Drew Wright
Elephants Standing
& other poems

Michael Jenkins
The Garden Next Door
& other poems

Nicky Nicholson-Klingerman
& other poems

Doni Faber
Man Moth
& other poems

M. Underwood
In Other Words
& other poems

Carson Pynes
Diet Coke
& other poems

Bucky Ignatius
Something Old, . . .
& other poems

Violet Mitchell
Deleting Emails the Week After Kevin Died
& other poems

Sam Collier
Nocturne in an Empty Sea
& other poems

Meryl Natchez
Equivocal Activist
& other poems

William Godbey
A Corn Field in Los Angeles
& other poems

Don Hogle
Austin Wallson Confesses
& other poems

Timothy Walsh

The Girl from Perth Amboy

All that summer, it was as if my motorcycle

             knew the way—

Schraalenburg to Old Hook Road to Kinderkamack.

She was new in town, joked that she’d always wondered

             what things were like north of the G.W. bridge.

Her eyes froze you, pinned you like daggers,

             invited you in to wander, lost.

Whenever she spoke of Perth Amboy, she shook her head.

A nothing town, she said. Rusted-out and crumbling,

             a place of has-beens and lost causes.

We rode everywhere together—me and that girl

             from Perth Amboy.

She clung to me as if I were her lifejacket,

             her last chance—

legs wrapped tightly around mine,

hands tight around my waist as we leaned into turns,

             accelerated down freeways.

She thought she was tough, always wore black,

thought she could maybe play bass in a punk band

             or one day go to art school.

But that summer we mostly just rode—

             up to Bear Mountain, down to Sandy Hook,

west to Lake Hopatcong, the Poconos.

She said she’d maybe like to go out to the west coast—

             move to Seattle or Frisco or someplace—

switch oceans for a while,

watch the sun set in the Pacific.

Once, we rode all the way down to Cape May,

             took the ferry across to Delaware,

fed the seagulls gliding alongside the boat

             from our hands,

the seagulls like emissaries from another world,

like souls, she said, like souls.

Later, I heard she’d gone back to Perth Amboy,

got married, lives not far from her old place

             near the Outerbridge.

And I was left wondering what if

             we had hit the road to Frisco?

What if I didn’t crash the bike,

             then head up to Boston?

What if I’d followed that road deep into her eyes,

             disappearing in the haze of infinity?

Metro Messenger

It was a delivery truck, of that we were sure,

but what we were delivering we never actually knew.

Rugs mostly—a single Persian rug picked up

             at a deserted warehouse on the lower East Side,

dropped off at a gas station in Jamaica Plain—

three rugs picked up at a Teamster’s loading dock in Hoboken—

             all the union guys studiously not noticing us—

delivered to a ramshackle townhouse in Bensonhurst.

So yes, it was rugs mostly, but what was in those rugs

             we never knew—

were smart enough not to look,

knowing that, in this case, curiosity would surely

             kill the cat.

It was my brother’s job—first job out of college—

but over winter break, I was hired to ride shotgun

(no gun actually, just a stack of New York metro maps).

Metro Messenger, the van said with swoosh marks

             to emphasize its speed. Phone Dispatched.

We were paid ridiculously well, had more down time than up,

             phoned in after each job for instructions,

sat around a lot in burger joints and bars,

             waiting for our next pickup,

the black van out in the parking lot looking like

             an avenging angel, a dark messenger.

Our base was an old stainless steel art deco diner

             by the Holland Tunnel—Jersey side—

its circular counter where everyone faced the grill man,

             who moved the mountain of golden onions

flipped the burgers,

everyone sipping coffee, reading newspapers,

the frying-onion-and-sizzling-meat smell intoxicating

             while trucks and busses dieseled by outside,

the incessant internal combustion seeping in from the streets,

             setting the counter and coffee cups vibrating,

the roar of traffic deafening yet unnoticed,

             like cicadas on a hot summer day.

I was reading the Russians then—Dostoevsky,

             Turgenev, Tolstoi, Chekhov—

dog-eared copies of The Brothers Karamazov

             and Ward Number Six on the dashboard,

our conversations about Raskolnikov, Bazarov, Pechorin,

             my head full of samovars, kvass, roubles, and serfs,

my heart hungry for the steppe . . . .

So yes, we were delivering rugs that were most likely

             not just rugs,

but sometimes perhaps they were—a set of braided rugs

             delivered to someone’s grandmother in Queens,

a pyramid of stairway runners delivered to a hotel in Yonkers.

No matter. Whatever the cargo, we were cool with it.

As long as someone would pay us to cruise the canyoned avenues,

             race along labyrinthine bridges,

                          ghost through tunnels under dark rivers,

radio blaring,

brothers seatbelted side-by-side, the curve of the windshield

             our common eye,

onion-and-hamburger diners waiting to replenish our coffee,

caffeine lighting our eyes from within like midnight dashboards—

hell, it was maybe the best job we ever had.

Aunt Zosha’s Sky Blue Skylark

White-walled tires, white vinyl fastback roof,

             bucket seats and stick shift—

Aunt Zosha worked the clutch in a miniskirt

             and black boots,

the cigarette butts in the crowded ashtray

             all with a kiss of lipstick.

She had us kids sit four across in the backseat,

told us not to put our sneakers on the white vinyl upholstery,

blared the radio, singing along, eyes hidden

             behind huge sunglasses,

always incognito in mascara and eye shadow.

These boots are made for walking, she’d sing,

             lighting her cigarette,

the dashboard lighter glowing like a ray gun—

revving the motor, working the stick shift and clutch,

             peeling out just to give us kids a thrill.

We’d drive to the old neighborhood in Greenpoint—

to Uncle Stanley’s Laundromat by the old trolley car barn

or—if we promised to keep it secret—

             her gypsy grandmother on Ash Street

(our great-grandmother, we’d whisper).

While the old woman eyed us across the table,

serving tea or vodka, asking which we’d have,

legions of faintly remembered relatives came and went—

             Ziggy, Stachu, Pavel, and old Bolek,

                          Rachel, Bonnie, Agnieska, and Chloé—

playing cards, dancing, the record player blaring,

everyone drinking cups of tea or vodka or both,

Aunt Zosha speaking Polish or gypsy to the old ones,

till inevitably we adjourned to admire her sky blue Skylark

             parked outside—

took some cousin or friend for a ride,

cruising down Manhattan Ave to McCarren Park. . . .

Back at our grandmother’s in Auburndale, we’d say

             we stopped at the Horn and Hardart’s or Baskin Robbins,

felt our lie flush our faces like vodka,


hearing that gypsy music start up in our hearts,

             pulsing through our reddening ears.

Dreaming of White Castle
on the Pulaski Skyway

We’d cruised beneath the skyway often enough,

             tooling around on the boat,

a couple of quarts of beer, playing guitars in the stern,

Monica’s sax cutting through the whoosh of traffic,

cruising along the chemical coast,

up through Arthur Kill into Newark Bay,

gliding across the gunmetal calm surface,

oil slicks along the shore making rainbows in the twilight,

the Pulaski Skyway looming gigantically ahead,

its maze of girders and struts arching high

             above the water

like the exposed skeleton of some dinosaur or dragon—

             gargantuan spine, massive ribcage, lashing tail—

the lines of cars moving along the roadbed

like frenzied ants devouring the last morsels of flesh

             from the bones.

So after our last drop-off of the day in the delivery van,

my brother and I decided to take the Pulaski Skyway

             back from Queens

even though the Lincoln Tunnel was faster—

take the Pulaski Skyway just for the hell of it

after delivering a couple of Persian rugs to a drugstore

             in Flushing,

thinking we’d head over to our cousin’s house, make a run

             to White Castle around the corner,

                          shoot the shit. . . .

We could almost smell those burgers as the skyway rose higher

             and higher in the air,

those little square hamburgers with finely chopped onions,

small enough you could maybe eat a dozen yourself,

the warm bagful of burgers hanging from one hand

             while you reached in and devoured them

                          one by one

                                       in three bites. . . .

Hurtling homeward on the Pulaski Skyway,

the sunset and the fires of Elizabeth spread out before us,

making it seem that all New Jersey was on fire—

an inferno of smokestacks, gas jets, and chemical tanks

             charbroiling the sky—

we listened to the radio’s electric guitars reverberating

             off the windshield,

someone singing about love in a dark time,

the tantalizing whiff of those White Castle burgers

             beckoning us onward

to this conflagration we called home.

Timothy Walsh’s most recent poetry collections are When the World Was Rear-Wheel Drive: New Jersey Poems and The Book of Arabella. His awards include the Grand Prize in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition, the Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize from North American Review, the New Jersey Poets Prize, and the Wisconsin Academy Fiction Prize. He is the author of a book of literary criticism, The Dark Matter of Words: Absence, Unknowing, and Emptiness in Literature (Southern Illinois University Press) and two other poetry collections, Wild Apples (Parallel Press) and Blue Lace Colander (Marsh River Editions). Find more at:

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