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Sample Poems by Jeffrey Bean


Incantation against Old Age
 
The song about the smell of corn.
The song about the sound of corn.
The song called “The Corn Woman,” played on a rattle.
The song for a brave kid with a fever.
The song for a brave kid bitten by a copperhead.
The song for a brave kid rubbing salve on her brother’s burns.
The song for hiding in the hay.
The song for crunching locust shells.
The song for snot.
The song for nests.
The rat song.
The shrimp and bananas song.
The song about the one-eyed bird in an east-moving storm.
The song about the dandelion eaters.
The song about the egg smell of lightning-bug blood.
The crawling-around-farting song.
The crab-let-loose-in-your-sister’s-shower song.
The summer-you-drank-till-you-broke-on-yourself-like-a-storm
song.
The song to be sung riding on handlebars.
The song to be sung drowning moles.
The song called “Who’s Here?”
The song called “The Lake at Night Breaks My Heart.”
The song called “The Smell of Gravel Breaks My Heart.”
The song called “Many Little Wrists Have Broken My Heart,
but Yours Are Smallest.”
The song of cigarettes.
The fall song about getting drunk and watching fire.
The summer song called “Hey Toadie-Toadie.”
The spring song called “True as a Wasp.”
The winter song arranged for music teacher and blind twins.
The wordless song for holes in the porch.
The song in the dream you fall back asleep to remember.
The song you sing up a chimney.


Guitar
 
A guitar has a heartbeat but
you have to sneak up on it.  A guitar
has six gold teeth.  Sometimes
you have to breathe for it
but those are the greatest days of your life
because it gets a pot belly
you have to laugh at, astonishing brightness
plus a good smell like blood or sassafras. 
Terrible days, it breaks something, or you break
a finger.  Its breath gets downright sour. 
But you hold on to it, maybe put it in a box
and fly to Europe but that’s a bad mistake. 
No one wants to leave a guitar
alone.  Besides, it can die
like a child or forget how to talk. 
People don’t realize.  That’s how
I lost mine.
 


The Rider
 
To pretend he’s not coming,
I cook deep red soup.
Every spice I abandoned in summer
goes in.  The smells rise
around me like rich grass
or family.  But he’s here now
anyway.  And he grows, fills
the garage, every corner of winter’s
navy blue.  So I can’t go
out there, leave fresh water
for the cats.  In my sleep
I feel their mouths close
like children’s hands.  The rider
sees that pink that needs me. 
Sees them lick ice in their bowl. 
His enormous hair snuffs out
the landscape behind his horse
as he circles my house,
his curls collecting snow and salt,
dead birds stiff as ladies’ hats.
In the soup it’s October,
the moment when the trees start
their brash fires across the river.
As though everyone longed
to be signaled.  To be fetched.
 


January
 
Four-in-the-morning snow
plays the slowest piano.
Day arrives in a short boat,
white, rinsed-out, rinsing. 
Night goes on
building its cabins in this place.
How many songs
have disappeared inside me?
If I wind up alone
(O vertiginous bubble of time)
(O Earth, fecund dirt-clod in the vast blank cloth)
I’ll play catch with decades
of air.  My life
the sketch of an ant.  Yesterday,
I heard the child by the dry town fountain
say a horrible funny thing: 
 


Major Third
 

It comes from gravel lots where the state fair
pushes fried dough and bagged fish out the mouths
of red-lit tents.  It’s pumped out of dunking booths
across the blocks and into windows, up the stairs
 
of the apartment where my grandfather is
dying in a room of mums.  It’s the song of Sunday
traffic, the car horn’s hot punch to which he
tunes his hymn, the last tune he remembers.
 
It’s where the voices in rooms above him drift when
they cheer, or sing, when they ooh and ahh
or rise in anger, say where have you been,
when they call out for help or to mourn—even then.
It’s La Cucaracha.
It’s When the Saints Go Marching In.