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Editor's Note



Three Poems
by Michael Shorb

Cures for Insomnia

Night unending and rain
Spearing the pavements
I turn sleepless
Imagining each watery 
Shaft an echo
Of the world's unending

    the pallor of starving skin
Gray feet of refugees
Navigating bone-
dry roads

The cry of the prisoner
The arching emptiness of
Loved ones washed away
In memory's red water.

I put on an old noir mystery
And soothe myself to sleep
With a focused and specific
     a gunman staring 
From the window of a seedy room

A detective
Shouldering the burdens
Of the last honest man

A beauty in a sports car
Engine running smoothly
Aimed at the nearby 
Borders of resolution.

The Black Box of Angus the Tinker

I walk backward in the steam-
Shrouded light of depots.
I ask the lounging railroad men where 
I can get hot food. 
  They point out the door
A battered Camel billboard
Fast food strip joint
Araby beyond the intersection 
Of alarm and vision
To the north shore of Lake Huron
200 years ago.
               Walking again I'm startled
By geese overhead in roaring profusion,
Darting shoals of passenger pigeons,
Hundreds of black bears and grizzlies
Drinking at lake's edge without looking up.

Maybe the earth, its ozone girdle
Ravaged by moths of chlorine monoxide,
Its atmospheric immunity system
Riddled by bromides 
                  and chlorofluorocarbons,
Is filling up with blind animals,
Radiated micro planktons.
Acquired Immune Deficiency
Planetary plague.

I am pulled by something out of time.
Toward the Great Plains.
Empty farmhouses
                and baseball diamonds streak past.

I approach a group of Crow Indians
Busy roasting a buffalo hump.
Ever the scientific Western man,
I am about to ask them 
To tell the story 
                  of their migrations,
The significance of their feather 
Markings, the vision behind
Their ritual dances.

All that comes out 
Is a crude sign indicating
The one constant: my hunger.
                     Sit down eat, they say, 

I gorge and fall asleep.
The red men are gone
When I awake. 
Only a few bones 
Left in the ashes.

I am invested in a wilderness of bones.
Bones of Mandan and mustang,
Mohican and prairie chicken 
                            knotted together like coral
reefs beside a sunless sea.

                 Song chokes in my throat.
Puccini aria, Apache chant,
St Louis riverfront jazz or motor city
Rhythm and blues, nothing comes out.

A human form appears.
Down from the charred hills in a tradesman's van,
Rosebuds painted on each side, circa 1867.

It's Angus the Tinker, mutation of an old
Scottish immigrant to eastern
Wisconsin in the 1850's.

I feel better now that commerce is here.
I rush over to launch a barrage of questions.
He silences me with an imperious
        "Damn you and your questions,"
He says gruffly, throwing down
A large black box and clattering 
northward in the waning light.

Eagerly, with shaking hands, 
I open terra concordia

The Black Box of Angus the Tinker,
And look inside.


They weren't after me.

I wasn't the one tied
by the ankles to
a Cyclops of uranium
dragged across floors
of the Age of Invention
a convict in chains
ram in the thorns
steel mill rabbit
in thickets of rain

they didn't hunt me down
in coal-
        black veins of my own land
smash the colored beads
of my alphabet
hook me across the gills
with a printing press
shoot me in some 
neck of the woods
when nothing was looking

I'll see you around
         through town
soiled parody from
the Book of Prophets
blurting the old green songs.

last seed bursting
last wind stirring
last swordfish
               in slate-green sea.

San Francisco-based poet Michael Shorb's work reflects an abiding interest in environmental issues, history, and the lyrical form. His poems have appeared in over 100 magazines and anthologies, including The Nation, The Sun, Michigan Quarterly Review, Queen's Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg Review, Commonweal, Rattle, Urthona, Underground Voices, The Great American Poetry Show and European Judaism. His collection, Whale Walkers Morning, will appear in Winter 2013 from Shabda Press.

Copyright 2011, Michael Shorb. © This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.