Latest Poems

Strollering

I push my son in his stroller around our Brooklyn neighborhood for entertainment. We encounter other mothers with babies doing the same thing. One woman wearing a tiny infant in a sling stops to say hello to us.

“He’s so big. Is he Asian?” she asks.

“Thanks,” I say. “His father is from Japan.”

“He’s part Korean,” she looks down at her baby. “Sperm donor.”

 

Kerry D. Martin

Eyck/Eick

An old man resembling a hobo out of a movie asks me one morning if I know where Ten Eyck Street is. I have lived blocks away from it for thirteen years.

When I was in the first grade I had a crush on Steven Eick. A blond boy with the kind of smile that turns one’s face into a series of wrinkles. His eyes became two down-turned em-dashes.

We used to wait in line in the auditorium after school let out for the school bus together. When you’re a kid so much activity takes place while waiting for things to happen.

My older brother Pete always called him “Steven Itch.” He told Steven one day (in front of me) that I liked him. I denied it and Steven looked off into the distance, distracted by embarrassment. Things were never the same between us after that. It was always hanging in the air.

I’m thinking about this with the hobo standing in front of me. “I’ll ask someone else,” he says.

 

Kerry D. Martin

Sally

I never saw my Grandma K in a bathing suit so I made the assumption that older people aren’t allowed to go in the water. Maybe something would happen to their thin bones or papery skin, maybe their organs couldn’t stand up to being emerged in water; I wasn’t certain.

My grandparents each had their own bedroom, side by side, each with a single bed on top of golden shag carpeting. My Grandma K’s floor was covered with a forest of paper bags. Her filing system.

One year the women in my family went on a “girl’s getaway” together. I saw my Grandma K walk out of our hotel room bathroom in a black bra and slip.

I spent most of the trip swimming along the bottom of the hotel pool. I scraped the bridge of my nose on the blue concrete. My grandmother, watching me from a deck chair came over next to the pool and dipped her hand in the water and said, “just the temperature I like it” leaving me to wonder how she would know.

 

Kerry D. Martin

Fashion

Relics

It my top dresser drawer live a layer of delicate, pretty bras that have been undisurbed for the past two-and-a-half years. Shoved in with them, in heavy rotation are taupe-colored, utilitarian nursing bras. They are like pushy subway passengers taking seats that are clearly too small for them.

Scissor Lover

A barista with a Russian accent asks me to repeat my order. She’s staring at my necklace, which is a tiny pair of scissors.

“I don’t even know what you said, I was looking at your necklace. I just love scissors.”

Gladiator Sandals

These remind me of shin guards, or something that belongs in Beetlejuice.

 

Kerry D. Martin

Hooked

My son Jiro is hooked on crackers. Anything you need him to do can probably be accomplished by giving him a cracker. One day I push him on the swings in a Greenpoint playground where an emerging condo is going to ruin the view of Manhattan. When he reaches for the construction site I incorrectly call one of the diggers a tractor.

“Cracker?!” he asks.

 

Kerry D. Martin

Greg Maddux

“I’ll play with him any day.” Andre Dawson, spring, 1988 when asked about pitcher Greg Maddux’s prospects with the Major League ball club the Chicago Cubs.

“Only a wind that keeps turning, turning
Around an abandoned ball park.
That blows and blows, forever blowing
Away: always away from home.”

–“The Swede was a Hard Guy”, Nelson Algren

I A feeling on the el sometimes

Late March, there is rain, in Chicago
the wind is still cold like January
though the sun warms with promises,
and then, Greg Maddux is gone.

Sometimes, loud el ride,
this is the final straw. This is the push
over the proverbial edge, people thinking
about other people, staring at brownstones
and into windows of the buildings
along the track and then,
Maddux is in Atlanta.

II Everyone tells stories

Baseball in Chicago is like everything
in Chicago, or perhaps, it is the other way
around. There is dirt mixed
with faith and love—there are ballplayers
from 1919 we still long
to claim and clean and make
beautiful as they were, before
broken conspiracies opened up
like the Lake at the end of all
these brick buildings. Chicago longs
to open up like the ploughed fields
that created it, longs to leave
on the railroads that made it.
Telling stories of itself through
the night, an epic sprawled out
and spelled strewn on the corpses
in garages, in alleys, in courtrooms
all built on this ancient swamp.

In Chicago everything is examined,
everything becomes part of the narrative
and you can bet that criminals on first
examination, are saints on the fifth.
Maddux, his first 20 win season dangling,
let it go, defending a teammate
in the fifth inning of a 9-0 game.
Maddux, those of us who watched will never
tire of saying, was more beautiful than Koufax,
more dominating than Johnson.
Maddux destroyed the batters’ belief,
made them the yokels
from New York, from L.A.
From cities that tried to take the railroads from us
a century ago. He looked effortless,
he was clawing at you.

If Maddux fell apart in the play-offs,
was it not because he had thrown so much,
held together so much an entire season?
In Chicago, baseball is an effort for tragic heroes,
for illiterate Hamlets and joyful Romeos
who would play baseball as if seduced,
as if the game was destined, through
annual heartbreak to find, sometime,
a rapture. We have been snake-bit,
sunburned, sold into purgatory for the sins
of the chafed and the chafing:
There were lords to defy,
there were subjects to keep in place.
Conspiracy is Chicago’s wine,
time again it leads to a truth
so great, that Chicago, in its writhing,
is great. Our players are beautiful,
we misplace them like so many toy soldiers.
We wait the winter for them.

III 1969

It began, in late summer, with a cat.
Soon it was Seaver, and not Jenkins,
soon order asserted itself. We were left
with beer-stained memories, memories
of bleacherites discussing Santo’s quick hands,
much the way, generations earlier,
bleacherites discussed Weaver’s
just to the South. What summer promised,
the fall so easily took away: this game is
an artist’s game, a skill of hands.

IV Fanatics are sad in October

In September the sun is warm, but the wind
promises the winter, it begins its process
of expiation early. All these beautiful leaves
that have fallen then: the ball fell through
Hap’s glove and he says it was an honest play.
It is Chicago, there is no doubt that this was
the honest play.

In 1984 the ball went through the Bull’s glove,
and this too, was an honest play:
this too, was a wound to the heart.
You will hear grown men, without irony,
describe where they were when that happened,
what they were drinking, what they said:
other lines to add to the corpses’ bodies.

There are ghosts in baseball: there is the ghost
of Eddie Cicotte aching to use his arm in Game One.
He felt his good stuff but he had given away his arm.
It was classic Chicago, how the deception
turned on the deceptor, revealed the saint within
at the moment of sin.

There is Hartnett, the ivy gone, the sun down,
the knees weary with summer in this now awesome
September streak and if we did not hear
the bat groan from our seats in the grandstand,
could we even see the ball slip the sky
for the bleachers? If there were no miracles
left for fall, was there not that moment,
when like wine from water, day was taken
from night? Baseball was released:
it was the revelation of drama.
It was the festival for harvests,
beginning with the planting,
ending with the gathering.

V Ballparks

Maddux is in Atlanta now,
there he is in that new ballpark,
that ballpark that doesn’t even remember Aaron.
In Chicago the graves are kept for the bodies
but not the ghosts,
it was here that Ruth called
or did not call the homerun,
where Hornsby snarled and a collection
of our 4-Fs lost to some 4-Fs from Detroit
after the War had ended.
Maddux is in Atlanta moving the ball in
on hitters so that they hit it off their feet,
so they roll it to the second basemen,
so Maddux can chase this perfection in peace,
without the echoes of this demon-town
with its beautiful ghosts.

 

Andrew Decker

Vegetable Kingdom

I´m sketching peanuts and vegetables. They keep growing little arms and legs. Everything takes on a human form for some reason.

 

Peter Köhler

Montauk

Maria, John and I have been out to Montauk to look at the lighthouse. On our way back we stop at a little bar by the docks. I order my first oyster and chase it down with a chilled beer. I become filled with a warm love for the Atlantic.

 

Peter Köhler

Crows

She tells me that all the thousands of crows in Long Island sleep together in one communal nest. At least it’s a nice thought.

 

– Peter Köhler

In the street

A little dog wearing a denim jacket and sneakers.

 

– Peter Köhler

The Luma Restaurant

If you want to eat the rooster you see running around, you have to pay $25.

 

Peter Köhler

Tropisms

I´m sitting at the edge of a small artificial lake outside The Palace of Fine Arts, when suddenly a large seagull crashes into a tree and hits the ground not seven feet from me. It swiftly gets to its feet and waddles off a short distance to stand with its back turned to me.

I discreetly try to sketch the bird, when it turns, embarrassed, and asks me not to.

 

– Peter Köhler

Väddö Island

This is a year rich in mosquitoes.

My dad fixes the car wearing a raincoat.

 

– Peter Köhler

Sidewalk Café

We’re having coffee at a sidewalk café in Trapani, Sicily.

I’m sketching on a pad. A man from Tunis stops at our table and asks me if I’d be willing to draw him a wolf if he bought me a beer.

 

– Peter Köhler

Pirated Goods

It´s really hard to beat a track suit that carries both the Adidas and the Nike logo.

 

– Peter Köhler

Primary School

The father of one of my classmates has hanged himself in the living room. Using his tie.
 

Peter Köhler

Travelogue

I´m about four years old and running a high fever. In the side window of a taxi I watch an inverted cartoon. Abstract day‑glo figures zooming around against a black background.

 

– Peter Köhler

Next to the train station

Jacob and I sit in a bar close to the train station in Karleby. A drunk, who sits at a table next to us, offers us lollipops. We take one each, that we save for later. The man insists that we have more, and he tells us he is catching a train shortly. Somewhat later, when we remind him of the time, he wants to give us even more lollipops. All of a sudden he looks sad, rolls up one of his shirt‑sleeves and shows us a big swastika tattooed on his arm.

 

– Peter Köhler

The Skeleton

My brother told me he had read that someone had found the skeleton of a gnome, in a wall of one of the old houses on Skansen.

 

– Peter Köhler

Bookstore

Among all the books,​ is one that is small and black.​ So plain and small that I cannot take my ​eyes off it.
When I open the first page I am surprised.­­​ It’s a passport to the Kingdom of the Dead!­​ Ready for use,
after sticking one´s photo on it.­­ The text is in Spanish.­­ I don’t buy it.


 

– Peter Köhler