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Howie Faerstein

In It for the Carpentry

I thought I saw a goldfinch pluck a lie from an evangelical’s mouth. Perhaps, like the 17 year brood X cicadas, the time for swarming is now. I’d restore my rocks & shells to our lacerated planet but won’t live long enough to return to their origin. To be rescued. Or not. Imagine camels in our Pre-Adamic hemisphere. Eggshell fragments in a dinosaur nest, the terror of that, fossilized remains from Hell Creek, Montana. Calculating how long since attending a wake, I see what may be needed is the cleansing offered by funerals. There’s no confusion facing a suddenly raging arroyo, only a scramble to higher ground. Capitalizing on the lethal virus, six million deaths & counting, an influencer’s line of face masks sold out in hours. Meaning comes later, as Miro said. On Bridge Street there’s forever a fish crow cawing hoarsely by the liquor store. Following a raven over Taos Mountain at the outset of our new century & walking into the Adobe Inn, there was Frank Morgan blowing Monk’s Well You Needn't. A bebop epiphany in a hip-hop world. Of course it’s all madness—I want to be awake when I die!

Letter on New Year’s Day

Dear _________

There’s been no word for months,

December’s long immaculate fade finally reversed,

still it’s hard to see those extra seconds of light

with flocks of finches driven south by winter famine,

the raft of brant gone with the close of open water,

with crinkling stems nodding & waving,

with lockdown slowdown showdown.

When I’m holding a pen like a pool cue,

focusing on the yellow-lined paper,

I see you and when I remember the weather you face,

I think: from feather fall, from wind sway.

I thought it was you but instead

only an echo of childhood foghorns.

I thought it was you but only

a barn owl answering a coyote.

Give the moon its due

is what the ice sang this morning as it shuddered then cracked,

a breaching whale exhaling rainbows,

and I sang back if you’ll be the saddle for my seahorse

I’ll be the breeze for your swelter.

Concussive rain the percussion of the moment.

The husky broke loose on El Salto Road & began

corralling buffalo & the farmer began screaming & shooting

& I thought I heard the dog bark back

If you’ll be the lichen for my tree

I’ll be the catkins for your birch.

Even though I sometimes appear to be drowning please

don't forget to recount my joy at finding love.

Thanks to you we found Jasmine at the insectarium

but between millipedes & crickets I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

I will not miss this when it ends, not with the red squirrel’s passage

to the underworld growing wider & deeper each day, not with…

Let me hear from you

As ever, H

Gate of Heaven

There was a time I walked

up 8th Avenue in a downpour,

shower cap & raincoat on,

then veered off toward the park,

an August gullywasher

that turned me inside out.

Also circumnavigated

Brooklyn in a blizzard

past abandoned patrol car

on Atlantic Avenue,

two kids jimmying the radio.

That was a time,

no thought of death,

lots of thoughts of sex,

seldom considered suicide,

rarely wept except at the movies,

always exceptions.

Now I travel along Jacob’s Ladder

where there are no

angels ascending,

no angels descending,

where tree roots are exposed

on one side of the trail,

clumps of hemlock ravaged

by woolly adelgid beetles

on the other,

still, I hardly

ever cry though death

does present on occasion

& by the way

as a courtesy

I’m straight,

haven’t always been,

loved being a young father,

dog on leash hooked to stroller,

yet admit at my advanced age

I’m still quite inexperienced.

Never wrote a poem like this.


Howie Faerstein’s latest collection is Out of Order (Main Street Press). His full-length collections, Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn and Googootz are available from Press 53. His poetry can be found in On the Seawall, Nixes Mate, Banyan Review, Rattle, upstreet, Verse Daily and Connotation. Co-poetry editor of CutThroat, he lives in Florence, MA.


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