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John-Michael Albert

The New Croesus

 

Just like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

Astride the golfers’ well-groomed eighteen holes,

Here, in a once disease-infested swamp,

An orange hubrid with a coif whose flame

Is Just for Men (under-timed), and his name,

Make Us Great Again. Here, his tiny hands

Waive the world’s contempt; his rheumy eyes lase

The Beltway’s lair of red-tied suits and wealth.

 

“To hell with treaties, powers, rights,” tweets he

From his sleepless den. “Come—you comfy rich,

You one-percenters Dow-Jonesing for more,

You brash elitist kleptos of the world,

Come, you entitled oligarchs—to me.

I’ll quench this country’s lamp to glut your store.”

 

 

The Woman Who Read This Book Before Me

 

printed in hard lead, No. 1 pencil, tiny letters

next to phoenix, “mythological bird that lived in Arabia”

 

our improbable meeting was in The Pages of Day

and Night; she arrived like a new character in Act III

 

when Adonis compares the earth to a pear or a breast,

she hesitated, wondering especially about the pear

 

she circled damp asphalt and New York

is Harlem, later New York is Wall Street

 

halfway through the odes, she started to underline

the names of trees—palm, date, cedar—but not plants

 

some of her comments were enigmatic: one line was decorated

with a five-pointed star, two were fenced-in with braces

 

in the ode to love, she put a checkmark

each time the poet wrote let there be weddings

 

            let there be weddings . . .

 

            let there be weddings . . .

 

            let there be weddings . . .

 

in an image / with breasts and thighs and all the rest:

she could not see Mohammad hurling goddesses from the Kaaba

 

somewhere between the poems and the essay at the back,

she lost her pencil; from there her comments were in ink

 

when she finally underlined poetry does not become poetry

unless it frees itself from the easiness and obviousness

 

that is demanded of it, all her marginalia

should have trembled in their chains, eager

 

to disappear like scorpions and jerboas

frantically seeking shade before the rising desert sun

 

 

And So Each Lover Is Both Greek and Trojan

 

            responding to Richard Bruce Nugent’s “Pattern for Future Dirges, No. 20”

 

And so each lover is both Greek and Trojan,

Both deceiver and deceived. It’s love’s contract,

The price we pay when we tie abstract

Pleasure to reality’s heartless, daily motion.

 

And in exchange for what? Meeting in the rain,

A common destination, conversation

Over a meal and drinks, a certain reservation:

How much dare we share, now, of our joy and pain?

 

And then we feign a scuffle over the tab:

Who will get to show he loves this moment most?

The last of the wine, one final, lingering toast . . .

(Do we part at the doorway, or share a cab?)

 

Yes, there’s a dream world that we can only feel,

And through love alone can make it almost real.

 

 

John-Michael Albert has been active in the Portsmouth, NH, poetry community for the last 25 years. He has served on the board of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and hosted many open mics in Portsmouth, Dover, Durham, and Rochester. Mike edited The Poets’ Guide to New Hampshire (2 vv., 2008 and 2010). His latest published collection is Collected Animal Poems (Portsmouth, NH: Marble Kite Press, 2024).

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