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David Weiss


It all happened so quickly:

what I said, his fist,

my sprawling, his drunken kicks,

the bartender gripping my face in

his huge hand once I

struggled to my feet.


it took forever, it seemed,

like the irreversible lifetime

between slammed-on brakes

and impact. For years I recalled

only the figure I cut

as I shrieked, flat on my back,

and later groped along 

the floor for my glasses.

                                        I see

now how overdressed

for that bar she was

in her peasant skirt, richly

embroidered, the black leotard top,

the turquoise necklace.

                                      This was

a bar where the drinking

was serious and steady, the silence

behind the backbeat sullen,

stiff with craving. More

of her then unscarred body

comes into view,

a girl's really, unfinished,

all I knew.

                  I hadn't noticed

him then, but I do now — gaunt,

tattooed, with hard blue eyes,

a Vet, recently returned,

bellied-up, putting back

shots of bourbon before lurching over.

Who the hell do you think

you are coming in here

dressed like that, tits

sticking out, mocking us.

Someone ought to teach you

a lesson, girlie. And me, approaching,

a line right out of the movies.

                                               Right before

I went reeling across the floor,

though, was a moment I owe

to his hurt, vengeful eyes.

Stepping between them I forgot

where I was, caught in the thrilling

scent of perfume and sweat,

the flush of her throat,

just as he must have been too.

It stunned me.

All I'd wished for until then

had been beyond reach,

unattainably elevated and glorious,

that pure curse of adolescence

which goes wry or bitter in us.

My God, I thought, she's mine

and meant: I am crossing over.

It stretched away before me

like the land of milk and honey.

When he turned me toward him

I had no idea why.

                               I didn't feel

that first punch; his fist kissed

my chin like a blessing, stamping

the instant indelibly with his vision

of it as well — it was this:

love is something I'll never have.

Months later her death was

another punch.

She died en route,

narrowing the distance between us,

a collision so powerful

it snapped her heart off

its stem and disfigured her terribly;

they sealed the coffin


          No distance between us

I can take her

into more than my arms

wishing still for that life

which no one could grant us —

not ourselves then,

not myself now. 

                           And yet,

it’s more than a daydream,

more even than a memory:

I let her take my hand,

I let her lead me out.

I can be the fool now

I could never let myself be.

I can give myself up

to her greater envisionings.

Things I Can't Begin to Describe

When I was little

my father unscrewed his left arm from its socket

and hung a red dress in its place

a dress that had drifted down from a Ferris wheel

Later my heart put that dress on

and did things I can't begin to describe

Some of us want only what we want

Others know the future spilled the beans long ago

What we do doesn't bear scrutiny

What we mutter doesn't bear repeating

Who's to say the infant in tomorrow's arms

will know what to do with yesterday's paring knife

You wouldn't think you could cook fish cold in lemon juice

You wouldn't think you could be comfortable in your skin

Say it like you mean it     is not the same as meaning it

The Committee of the Whole

We were bitter united and sang an In Nomine

that ran the gamut from P53 to Dear John

as though never mind meant mindful of

as though accidents were systematic

and the wheel were a wind instrument

We shared an understanding of up a creek without and do the math

We took all we knew about the wilderness

and all we knew about embarrassment

and ran them through the secret language of

the experience we call the experience of others

Someone is counting

Someone is struggling

Someone is mapping her pillow

Someone is pulverizing not so simple     to fill the hourglass

Someone is on the far side of in-between

Someone is     and then someone else is     and heaving into view is

         yet another someone

There is a factory somewhere in tarnation

that makes one item     one unit     one thing     at a time

and that one thing is no thing at all

David Weiss coedits Seneca Review. His last two books of poems are Perfect Crime (Nine Mile Books, 2017) and Per Diem (Tiger Bark Press, 2019).

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