a poetry e-zine

Featured Poet - Bruce Niedt

Bruce W. Niedt is a newly-retired civil servant and family man from southern NJ whose poetry has appeared in many journals such as Writer's Digest, Spitball, US 1 Worksheets, The Lyric, Lucid Rhythms, and Edison Literary Review, as well as in the anthologies Best of the Barefoot Muse and Poem Your Heart Out. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and has workshopped with poets such as Billy Collins, Jane Hirshfield and Marge Piercy. His latest chapbook is Twenty-four by Fourteen, from Maverick Duck Press.

Poems by Bruce Niedt
Express Line

I’m next in the line for fifteen items or less, that arbitrary queue
that polarizes those of us with not a lot of things from those
whose teetering carts spill over the top. There’s a certain joy,
a camaraderie of peers who don’t hoard thirty-eight cans of corn
or buy for a family of seventeen. We have an identity –
a clique of individuals who live for the moment, who buy only
what we can see to our horizon of immediate needs.
There are no three-figure totals here – we are selfless
in our desire not to hold up our fellow man. Yet the old lady
in front of me buying flour and cinnamon sticks is counting out
her order in pennies, thus giving me time to review the tabloid rack,
and in my discernment, none are worthy of my money or attention,
although I am mildly curious about Chelsea Clinton’s shocking secret.
The cashier, a pretty brunette, reminds me of Parker Posey,
because I watch a lot of indie films. She is a little impatient
with the elderly customer, but dutifully collects every coin
of her four dollars and thirty-nine cents. Then it’s my turn –
I begin to load my acquisitions onto the conveyor,
and with a sinking heart I realize I have eighteen –
three over the limit. Cold fear runs down my spine;
my brow beads with sweat. Will the six people behind me
glare in judgment as they count along with the checker
to be sure I am worthy of my place in this exclusive queue?
Will she rebuff my entire order and exile me to the bursting-cart line?
Will I go up in flames right here, and will they call for clean-up
in Checkout Number 1 to sweep away my ashes?
But Parker Posey doesn’t say a word, takes my money,
hands me a receipt, and with a smile says, “Have a good day.”
I think I am in love.

Papers on Top of More Papers

(after “Black Stone Lying on a White Stone” by César Vallejo)

I will die in a cubicle, on a sunny day,
a day as ordinary as any other, maybe in autumn.
I will die in a cubicle in the middle of a project
probably on a Tuesday, a day much like today.

It might be a Wednesday, come to think of it.
I will think it’s writer’s cramp, but it will spread
up my arm to my brain, the neurons exploding
like fireworks, my tongue lolling in my mouth.

Poor Bruce. Worked all his life. Maybe we shouldn’t
have given him so much to do. Maybe we shouldn’t
have used that cat-o’-nine-tails on him so much.

There are no witnesses, just the vacation posters
tacked to the inside walls of my space. And it’s
a Tuesday or Wednesday, and it’s just begun to cloud up.

When the Ghosts Came

When the ghosts came, we left them oatmeal on the kitchen table.
When the ghosts came, we left them three pairs of galoshes on the stairs.
When the ghosts came, we hung empty picture frames over the mantle,
cleaned our golf clubs,
and left out baseball cards for them to trade.

When the ghosts came, we made tents out of our bed sheets.
When the ghosts came, we left mousetraps in the cupboard.
When the ghosts came, we left the front porch light on,
painted our windows blue,
and covered the mirrors with old horror movie posters.

When the ghosts came, we turned up the radio all the way.
When the ghosts came, we let the cat out and the dog in.
When the ghosts came, we read tarot cards,
got out the Ouija board,
and threw salt over our shoulders.

When the ghosts came, we banged on copper pots.
When the ghosts came, we hung papier maché owls from the chandelier.
When the ghosts came, we spread jam on the floor,
locked up the birdcages,
and put another log on the fire.

When the ghosts came, we painted our faces like tigers.
When the ghosts came, we sent red balloons out the nursery window.
When the ghosts came, we rolled up all the rugs,
waxed all our glass doorknobs,
and lit every candle in the house.

When the ghosts came, we were ready.
When the ghosts came, we were not ready.

Last Spring

We looked out, Bill and I, from our balcony
on Tampa Bay. Below us, a tiki bar clattered
with spring-breakers, jet skis growled
and drew arcs in the bright water that reached
from our room to the ball park in Clearwater,
which hugged the horizon. We drove
the long causeway, mere feet above the bay;
had breakfast at Lenny’s, teeming with Phillies fans;
then watched the game unfold with the afternoon –
blankets on the lawn beyond the right field fence,
where the sun baked us in mid-March,
and once, a home run ball dropped in to our left.
Later, we drove to the beach.
One more thing off my bucket list, said Bill,
who hadn't told me he was feeling ill again,
as we walked the gentle surf of the Gulf
that seemed to stretch into forever.

Horse Latitudes

Since he left, she has been an eggshell,
cushioned in her carton,
afraid to leave the house, lest she crack
and let the clear liquid weep out.

She paints a face on the surface,
but it's not her face. She uses her hands,
but they're not her hands. They tremble
and can't decide what to hold.

Her mind is an alien, beating against
the inside of her head, telling her to forget
how to smile, balance a checkbook,
eat dinner, wash, or feel anything.

Her eyes are frozen. She can't see
what brought her here. She looks out
the window for prowlers. Every five minutes
she checks her jewelry drawer again.

If she lets the moment terrify her,
she doesn't have to deal with remembering
or moving on. She shuts out the skeleton
in the bed, but also her wedding day.

He was her rudder, her windward sail.
Now she is in the horse latitudes,
stale and humid air where grief is not allowed
and they throw the animals overboard.


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