A. M. Juster Five Poems
Please flood her nerves with sedatives
and keep her strong enough to crack a smile
so disbelieving friends and relatives
can temporarily sustain denial.
Please smite that intern in oncology
who craves approval from department heads.
Please ease her urge to vomit; let there be
kind but flirtatious men in nearby beds.
Given her hair, consider amnesty
for sins of vanity; make mirrors vanish.
Surround her with forgiving family
and nurses not too numb to cry. Please banish
trite consolations; take her in one swift
and gentle motion as your final gift.
First published in Edge City Review.
No, not this time. I cannot celebrate
a man’s discarded life, and will not try;
these knee-jerk elegies perpetuate
the nightshade lies of Plath. Why glorify
descent into a solipsistic hell?
Stop. Softly curse the waste. Don’t elevate
his suffering to genius. Never tell
me he will live on. Never call it fate.
Attend the service. Mourn. Pray. Comfort those
he lacerated. Keep him in your heart,
but use that grief to teach. When you compose
a line, it is a message, not just art.
Be furious with me, but I refuse
to praise him. No, we have too much to lose.
2007 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award winner.
Note from Echo
Narcissus, I no longer haunt the canyons
and the crypts. I thrive and multiply;
uncounted daughters are my new companions.
We are the voicemail’s ponderous reply
to the computers making random calls.
We are the Muzak in the empty malls,
the laughtrack on the reruns late at night,
the distant siren’s chilling lullaby,
the steady chirp of things that simplify
their scheduled lives. You know I could recite
more, but you never cared for my recitals.
I do not miss you, do not need you here —
I can repeat the words of your disciples
telling lovers what they want to hear.
2000 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award winner.
We saw the mass grave at the Moscow Zoo.
A sullen man dug up a human skull
Then held it high for journalists to view.
Forensic specialists arrived to cull
Remains and clues from this forgotten plot
On which the zoo still plans to cage a bear.
The experts guessed these prisoners were shot
For special reasons; no one was aware
Of comparable scenes at urban sites.
No one knew if these bones belonged to spies,
Suspected Jews or zealous Trotskyites,
But none of us displayed the least surprise
When bureaucrats emerged from quiet cars
To hint this might have been the work of czars.
1995 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award winner.
Falling for the Witch
He did not hear our warnings. In his world,
his heady world of rapture and withdrawal,
what she demanded promised ecstasy.
He thought that others did not understand.
His heady world of rapture and withdrawal
sustained delusion. When he dreamed of her,
he thought that others did not understand,
although her grasp grew stronger. Over time
sustained delusion when he dreamed of her
was stripping him of everything divine.
Although her grasp grew stronger over time,
he did not feel her fingers on his throat.
Was stripping him of everything divine
what she demanded? Promised ecstasy,
he did not feel her fingers on his throat;
he did not hear our warnings in his world.
There’s shouting by the stove (it’s Plath & Hughes)
as Wystan wanders off without his shoes
and Whitman picks the Cheetos off his beard.
The Larkin-Ginsberg chat is getting weird,
and after countless hours they have found
bizarre pornography is common ground.
Old Emily is not
As prim as billed—
When Dylan finds her bra-hooks—
She is thrilled.
Poe strokes his bird; Pound yawps that it’s a pity
Eliot can’t sleep without his kitty.
Rimbaud’s on eBay searching for a zebra
while sneering, “Oui, a cheemp can write vers libre!”
The Doctor’s soggy chickens start to smell
and Stevens has insurance he must sell.
The readings are spectacular, I know,
but is there any way to make them go?
First published in Barefoot Muse.
A Kay Ryan Fanboy Poem
few of us see
in her verse
or the why.
to trust dips and slants
that wring the world
for a chance at truth.
Hocus-pocus like hers
is rarely discussed
even as blurs
come into focus.
First published in Southwest Review.
A. M. Juster