John Vincent’s poems have appeared in journals including Spinning  Jenny, Beloit Poetry Journal and American Literary Review.






Deleted scenes


a.


Injury the guide explained
is what
guides explain.

Sometimes a plaque,
others a bench.
Asterisks worn in brush.

In sand.
Built to boardwalks.
And if there is a star

it refers to
Sam was sure
a footnote.

And if there is a page,
a biographer, bookstores,
slick flack-jacket smile shots.

A web from which the injured
sends elegant signals,
the tenderest whiffs

of feeling.
But
jack-knifed

there
at the foot
of the stairs

she knew:
that the web
was not silk –

that the blood
sticky
pooled

‘round her head –
was the lure
and had caught her.







b.


Ash in an urn
is more star
than after hours

the zoned headliner screaming her own name.
Tonight, understudied
by an up and comer

whose curls
smooth red as Nembutals
trembled with held notes – .

But the alley
generous as alleys are
when it’s too late

to bother with creepy
from its diaphragm
delivers to windows

gone golden
the cry –
and each working Joe

each walk-up
bathroom-down-the-hallway
Jane

feels
not irritated
not worried about

tomorrow’s wing nuts
tonight’s heat –
rather, feels,

behind the fogged winter window:
like the finger
given something to write,

something the dawn
will hose down
unread by a soul:

the dripping
cursive so perfect.
But the lights

shrink to a tv dot
while the star grows
into her stupor.

Hundred and hundreds
of messages
sent

to their senders
who
pulling up the sateen

ridge of a blanket
feel its cool
on their fingers

and with the other
useful fingers snap
the lamp off

and wonder what
could be worse
than your name

given you in spades.
To be
in sodium light

only
what you were once,
to feel

it fill you –
a hard gulp
a fist of booze

stretching its steely
muscled arms
in a yawn.







c.


Most had outgrown
corner stores
for pharmacies.

So malt liquor out
Cathy insisted
on this

the fifth (giggles)
year mark of Sherry’s death,
they drink five year old Scotch.

Too rich for picnics precisely,
they met at the same spot
with its willows

their schools of leaves
razoring to and fro
with the wind,

the lake
and the clouds,
all catered.

Each cloche
softly rung open
ohs oos and ahs –

and the scotch
in cut crystal.
Each felt

satisfaction no lowly thing
and tinkled then clinked
their glasses.

To Sherry.
And that nothing
ever satisfy.

To her vocational
doubts.  To her
whose life

seemed a toy box of loss.
That we never ask:
why try.

Cathy toasted then
to the answers
of questions

to their dear
dead deluded friend.
To broken nails

and bruised ankles.
To Caring.
Jojo raised her glass

and added:
and to the need
for evidence

in the most obvious case
and the thrill finding
what was without question.

To all that that
may never have come forward
thinking it tacky.

May we be
powdered
in the sift

Let history
Take
like chemicals

to special paper.
May we be
That Special Paper!

Clinks.
And the handpicked
young waiter

pale
hair so black
his stubble fell

like a shadow
across his bird-bone jaw.
And, Jojo added,

perhaps in tribute to him,
to all the agencies,
agents, form letters,

contracts, databases,
and grinding
daily need

that make mourning glamorous.







d.


Comeuppance all around,
the past pulled
its chips to its chest.

To admit timidity
was all
Cathy could muster.

There are other games,
she whispered,
better games. And ducked from the table.

There are days
Mars leaves a red chalk smear
on the ozone

and matchsticks
stand at attention.
They’d remove their

little white caps
could they,
handsome

as solemn jockeys
at a prize horse’s
televised funeral.

Cathy knew such days.
She’d watch vinyl siding
sweat with it.

The luck of the draw
and the living with
good fortune exacted.

She’d heard tell
in tabloids
of luck being

mere patience,
being standoffishness
to the present.

She knew from luck.
But knowing,
disqualified.







e.


Then again
what is a picnic
but gloating.

That need can be met: arguable.
That tupperware
fits it: dubious.

The reality
into which
you bite:

one of
exception. –

With the churning
clouds’ whipped sugar
and the foam amid rocks

half-beaten egg white,
and the waterfall
all physics experiment

and the clearing
mowed by a failed
novelist.

Is it celebration
or the fragile
declaration

of détente
which hides
weapons

proliferating among themselves
so quickly
the counters barely

spin digits
fast enough
and never click

finished or hope
to find the combination
to open the safe.

Inside
ten women
a jello mold

and a mandala
of deviled eggs
blessed

by the powder
a pinch a piece
of paprika.







f.


You know how you
want to see the character who says
“everything will be fine”

squashed.
Because they know
how they must be

both inevitably right
and also wrong
and that by the time

of either
no one will hold them
to it.

That was how Rita
rubbed you.  Even
could she be trusted

with the future
she’d surely
with such a skill

feel superior.
As it was
she neither

knew
and even
having known

would
just like you
reading this novel

have forgotten
come the reckoning
what she’d said.

Only those
who suspect
backtracking likely

need
recall
all

they say.
Would that she
knew the outcome

for sure,
her knowing
wouldn’t be

oily,
but piss
and vinegar

confidence,
for which, truth be told,
we’d hate her anyway.







g.


Only mid-tundra
did Cathy just know
she’d need a new agent.

Five a.m. and Chatty Cathy
chafed the day.
Her team

wouldn’t you know it,
the nice not the driven
ones, licking her.

Yes, indeed, they did
look calendaresque
pulling her while she pulled

on a long white menthol cigarette
and now and then
she’d cry hyah!

The dogs had first chance
pissed a hole and dropped
her whip in it.

Later, the grocery store gossip rags
would host
o-mouthed Cathy

teetering
clutching a bottle.
But

you could clearly see,
she proudly plunked her
frozen dinner on the register,

that throughout, she hadn’t
broken, hadn’t lost and to the end
lurched on, her fire-engine red stilettos.







h.


How, having forgotten all the children
Huddled around your four-candled cake
In the faded, round-cornered photo,
Your eyes have eyes only for you,
So did Cathy scan the kiosk.

And finding herself, as if readying a bray,
Grinned. The wedding had FULL COVERAGE,
Her smearing the cake, her tripping on the fruit
Spilling from the gigantic wicker cornucopia,
Her besmattered. 

If dignity is an island
Surrounded by sharks, or a silo
Way below ground with titanium doors,
Or two spies sent to this planet
In perfect drag,

then it might be okay to teeter somewhere
Between blank and overfull,
But since it isn’t and doesn’t and really
Is about as mysterious as the satisfaction
Of a son razzing his mom at a pizza place,

Cathy balked. Ah, the party, the hats
So much about making friends
As if they were crafts and shaping
Their envy into joy, so much about sugar.
And after, in the basement, alone:

Little Cathy, half a Dixie cup of tang,
Stood before the clown painted on the wall
With its red yarn pompom nose,
Before the gold plaster of paris King Tut
Death mask and the malformed and malcolored
But gigantic tulips, and wept. 

There
At the bottom of the basement steps
None of this felt like anything,
Only the donkey poster, or the place
Where a donkey was before
Each eyehole, orifice,

Each inch of hide
Got pinned with tails, got argus-assed,
Got sadder than any fall from the heights
Of two cupsworth sugar and two impeccable
But useless tantrums.







i.


Her discovery
of her own self-evidence
made her a star.

Jojo didn’t rely
on denied decay or the allure
of flaunted failure.

Instead, she gave in.
She’d never liked
being young

so to age, ravaged
as she was, tickled
that in us

that also wants
to give
in

without 
having to make
allowances for others.

Jojo had funhouse
mirrors throughout
her house,

and a full
working carousel
that when set to high

would splash
across the courtyard’s
stainless steel tiles

and claw
up glass walls
and over end tables,

that forced
thoughts of old books
and their oil-emulsion end papers

or just made you barf.
But Jojo loved this proof
that wanting backwards

is wavy
like a movie flashback
brewing

but never taking.