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Poems By Rachel Bunting


Conversation With A Dead Poet
(for Bukowski)

Now look Buk, I've been sitting here
for more than an hour, just you
and me and a bottle of whiskey.
Your gravestone says "Don't try" -
and so I'm considering that.
Here's the thing, though,
Buk: I have a son.

You stopped trying before you hit thirty:
you rented rooms and women,
floated through the country
on a sea of Jim Beam. Still alive,
you were thick but empty,
no child to love you, no child to love.

This might have been where you were
when you stopped trying:
feet slung over the arm of a chair,
listening to Mahler on the radio,
the cracked and peeling paint
reeling past your ears in the rented room.

My eyes are not yet shot through
with the red and yellow of your life;
my hands don't tremble on the thirteenth
drink-free hour.

I am twenty-five, Buk.
I could stop trying now.


I see you staring back at me
from the mirror. I think you know
I do not love you. You see me eye
the thickness of your thighs,
the wet wobble of your glutes
in a bathing suit.

You don't trust me. You liked me
better when I didn't linger so long
before the mirror. Now my fingers poke
and tug at your skin, your teeth,
your toes. I honestly don't mind you much,
only I see how your stomach stretches
and grows with each bagel, each roll.

Body, just try to share the shape
of your eyes with your thighs;
take the curve of your lips
to your calves. It's not so bad, Body.

Still, you know I notice the smack
of your hamstrings against a metal chair
and you feel me grimace each time I peel
them away from vinyl or plastic.

If only we understood each other, Body,
we might have a friendship.


Your fingers peel me open
like a fruit, pull skin away
to expose the flesh, my mind
lain out on paper.

I say I don't care, pull the skin
back over the words and cover
the bruises your fingers left.
It never happened.

But still you probe
for the seeds within:
you want a tree that bears fruit
but only to watch it drop,
vine-ripe, and rot on the ground.

Rachel Bunting, a born and bred South Jersey girl, lives at the edge of the Pine Barrens with her husband and son. Her poems can be found in the Mad Poets Review, the Edison Literary Review, and the Journal of New Jersey Poets. Her poems have won prizes including first prize and honorable mention at the Philadelphia Writers Conference and the Michael Lanza Award at Stockton College. She is a dedicated fan of British bands from the 80s. She is a terrible dancer.



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