Like my parents, who began and
ended in desparation.
A one-hour ride to the junior college in Pensacola,
Neal in the back seat of the bus, crying out
the name of the dark-haired girl sitting
hand-crossed in the front.
My lovers suffocate me!
Or the flowers
he wouldn't stop
sending to her
parents' house after
she left, two sons
later, & the way
he wouldn't stop
calling, & the way
she wouldn't come
to the phone.
But sometimes, the poem is collapsing.
Once, a poem began with poets
on an empty stage, sprawling across bare
wood floor, a semi-circled ring of raw
emotion, offering words that promised
a brief blink of betterment.
they ranted and panted and planted seeds
of verse in themselves, there were stretches
of unplanned silence as we waited
to see who would stand and cry out
across the dark and empty seats, to see
who would rage against the quiet.
the poem then / became a thing / stretched beyond
breaking / elasticity of emotion / bent past brittleness
And the seats weren't all empty:
there was one where I sat, my legs bent,
coughing up the voice in my throat
that used to flow so freely.
loose the stop from your throat
This voice gone flat:
tonguing the edge of decomposed
sentences and a reticence that raws
verbs into inaction, their passivity
and insensitivity faced forward
and falling for this brief blinking
hope of betterment.
I was fallen.
I meant better things, but deconstructed syllables, riddled rhymes lined the page.
Clowns in cars. Hind-legging dogs. Poets crying lines. They ranted blind
against things gone wrong,
against things gone.
I wondered what I would say if I were dragged / from the wings
and stood up center stage / spot lit and composed / seats full
of silence and anticipation as they waited for
But imagine: all
the world's a stage, and I am wallowing in the wings,
wingless waiting for some brief blink of better days,
wishing for better ways to say
what I meant.
And imagine: I
string my outstretched arms to the fly,
rise above this stage, float above the footlights,
gaze across the empty seats, cry rage rant
rend these words.
Writing and talk do not prove me;
I carry the plenum of proof, and everything else, in my face
Center stage, I wanted you
to hang me. Let my feet dangle.
Let me strangle myself in these lines.
And I would hang with my feet faced forward.
I would struggle.
You would watch me
struggle, my tongue weighed
down against the edges of these phrases,
the syntax decomposing before the words reached
Troy Urquhart is the author of Springtime Sea Bathing (Greying Ghost, 2010), the editor of Willows Wept Review, and a contributor to Vouched Books. He teaches writing and American literature at Montverde Academy, where he serves as Director of Professional Development. He can be reached online here.