6 Poems


Jim Bratone







Idles into surplus

when jobless,

a spare tool

at the back of a drawer.


Submits to the corner lounger

opaque and vaguely sad.

Lies waiting for them to call

him back to himself.


Bathes his bulk

in the flickering blue glow.

Floats in a pool

of sausages and milk.


Throws the shadow

of calloused hands

heraldic against the wall.

Slumps into the dreams

the TV dreams.

Allows the night fall.




Today I Felt at Home so I Made This Poem


After months of heat

thunder to the west rattles

the world's aluminum roof.

The nature of this place

writhes inside

like a wounded rattler.


To plunge and plunge again --

palmetto to saw grass to scrub oak.

The nature of this place sprawls

the mind's parched hide.


The hill folk that claimed it

somehow fit the place,

completed its slur of sun and distance

with their own blank rage

and incompleteness.

Clenched Baptists who

sold grassland and forest for vacant lots,

harvest their crop of retribution

(crowns of stars and burning coals).

Through all their engines

and livestock together,

they drone the hymn

to money, keys, desire,

the three that nests in the one,

the Jesus driving in with the merchandise.


Knobbed fists scratch after all that shines

but the dirt forgets them,

smooths back their names

to a stretch of white.


They abandon even their own,

the ones that watered and fed

like them on iron red sand;

fire ant, scorpion, horned toad,

prickly pear, armadillo,

flowering yucca flashing its blades,

all that's barbed, bristled, shelled, spiked.

A scuttle across sand

then neon green blinking

from under a limestone shelf.


Pale tent poles of God's Big Top

drive themselves down

gladly breaking bedrock.

They clear the land

for the dispensation that's always near,

gleaming mirages of metal and glass,

place without place.


Sun burns through closed lids.

Everywhere, the bleached shell

of prarie cracks.






At the restaurant called Restaurant

in the town on the outskirts of itself,

the old boys gather.

They crackle haloes of failure.

They come to chew their gravel

clean down to sand,

order a rant

with a side of exile please.


Who said rapture?

Who said Meat Science?

The new lumps and the horn of bone.


When the water's been pumped

out of the cow pond

and the plains brown with grass rot

and tilt the milk of sky


I drink with ranch hands

in their horse trailer of house.

We share cracked-tooth laughter.

A live wasp nest, their chandelier,

hangs its reckless music over us.


The slur of town grows

along the highway,

a hand sprouting extra toes,


The wires whine.

A yellow square of window

opens the distance.

Inside, a bleery voice shouts

"I want my goddamn money

and I want my goddamn keys!"


Ragged teeth,

chomp on forgetness.

Swallow and rush down the dark.

Bring this homeles

Rodeo Crew back home.


In the afternoon,

kids carry plastic bags of trash

across a pasture, They stop

at a pillar of smoke.

It speaks gone, blurs to a weather

no one can erase or possess.




The Morning After the Flood


Across the road the firetruck was steaming.

Its wheel pulled a taut rope

out of the creek over the bridge railing.

A throng clotted around me drawn by the hope,

the whining engine, clouds and flashing light.

(The sudden sharp smell of canned soup

cooking made me want to vomit.)


The hoist seemed forever.

Then it lifted ceremoniously into sight,

purple, bloated, lightly goateed.

Under the arms, the cord yanked like a noose.

The paunch billowed from the Harley t-shirt.


A typically dirtball was the consensous.

Stilled and dripping from its umbillical knot,

miscarried twenty years late,

it ran a chill through us who couldn't see

or turn away, but only watch

ourselves gently licked by shame.

This fat kid, failed biker was laid

like a fertilizer bag on the grass

by the curb. "Anybody know his name?"


Pressed into a kind of community there,

we were apart in all circling the same.

"Ain't no badass no more," someone muttered

but I coould only stare at my hands.

The fog of crowd slowly cleared

back to shuttered griefs, badasses everyone.

I peered through my blinds off and on.


Like a giant child's abandoned doll

he lay uncovered there for an hour and when

a drizzle began to fall on our state again,

an orange tarp was thrown for a pall.




American Family Portrait


Aunts Mavis and Edna, uncle Earl,

if they existed would figure in a poem

of sorts, say, about the trombone slide

of memory, desire, nostalgia

fingering the glass panes.

The fir tre shudders its cloud

of ice crystals to the ground.


The real aunts and uncle refuse to show

on time, won't reheaarse when

and if they do, casually bruise

the fruit in my crystal bowl.

The fog of cigarette and cigar smoke

floats a gentle sickness.

Drunken cackles stab

like those spears of ice.

And this is your life

and it gets bigger, spreads in wider circles.

America this is your work

and family.

The acidic drone

of a cash register rasps at sleep.


The first characters never were,

the others no longer are.

As we leave this thrown-together

movie house, we scurry past

the squalor of flourescence and urine reek

for the cool forgetting of our cars.




The Absolute Assembly

(after C-SPAN, 4 a.m.)


They convene around noon

in their alabaster vault by the sea,

to read love letters, file rumors,

vote on shapes of twigs,

annex territories of dread and batteries,

question the allegiance of algae,

appoint a task force on the science of repose.


The Speaker rises to name you

Comptroller of the Four Winds.

It passes with pomp to the thunderous chords

from the Committee on Bouzouki.

Unworthy of the burden,

you mount the steps.

As he annoints you with a wreath

of concrete and wall maps

you are already forgotten.

They trundle oout at three,

sincere and bloated,

eager for the hazy summer evening.