Jeffery Conway's most recent collection of poems is The Album That Changed
My Life (Cold Calm Press, 2006), which was a finalist for the Lambda
Literary Award. His other books include Blood Poisoning (Cold Calm Press,
1995); Plush: Selected Poems of Sky Gilbert, Courtney McFarlane, Jeffery Conway,
R.M. Vaughan, and David Trinidad (Coach House Press, 1995); and two
collaborations with Lynn Crosbie and David Trinidad, Chain Chain Chain
(Ignition Press, 2000) and Phoebe 2002: An Essay in Verse (Turtle Point Press,
2003). His work has appeared in many magazines and journals, such
as The World, The Portable Lower East Side, B City, Brooklyn Review, The
James White Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, MiPo, Court Green, and The
Literary Review. His poems can also be found in many anthologies, such as
Poetry Nation; The World In Us; The Brink: Postmodern Poetry From 1965 to
the Present; Bend; Don't Shatter, and Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of
Collaborative American Poetry. He lives in New York City.
Izzy comes out to greet me with news
soon as I pull into the drive: old Flo
across the street, dead at eighty-five. June's
dusk ignites his long white hair - purple glow.
He walks me out front to see the garden,
lovely in its bedraggled weedy way.
Phyllis appears on the porch, uncommon
among lilies exhausted from the day.
Our collective eyes drift up toward a branch
dangling from the tree, still raw where it tore,
suspended like a wooden avalanche
waiting to fall. I'm the inheritor
of such pending chores, of tasks still unsaid,
eschewed all winter, left for me instead.
J.C.: A Portrait
He is impossibly aloof, like France.
An avid debunker, cocky rooster.
I wonder how did he end up here? Chance,
perhaps. The year he came? Unclear. A blur.
He's like that - an item in Lost and Found:
historyless; waits like an empty row-
boat to be of use. He doesn't like town,
prefers the beach, his neck above the flow
of tide (in or out - who knows?). It is May.
He'll visit soon, briefly, like a tulip's
debut and quick death. Then summer will pay
its respects bringing J.C., gay men, whips.
He's so goddamn polite! A soft guitar,
a cool Cape Cod night. Disgusting. But a star.
He readily climbs ladders to great heights,
cuts with electric shears privet that grows
feverishly in June with shocking might,
does this with abandon in ratty shoes.
He squints, uses one blue eye to measure -
exactness is not our thing - it's the bliss
of "doesn't matter" that fuels our leisure,
vexes our neighbor (the one dubbed "Miss Priss.")
Afternoons J.C. sits on his deck, tea
brewing in jug, his pen, like a weapon,
carves the journal resting on his knee.
Taciturn at first, he hoped to threaten
me with his silence, was mostly stolid:
words sung by movement - kinetic ballad.
I sat in my yard and watched this clever
act, then spoke. His reply - the foreclosure
on his house of see-through walls. Whatever.
Point is, I discovered he's a poseur
misanthrope. What he said: "I'm making torte,
and I'm so stressed out." That is a ritual
poet/tenants sometimes have to cavort
with - hyperbole, and pre-nuptial
domestic training (for security).
After that, J.C. and I exchanged vials
of pleasantries, and to my memory
in a few short weeks it was "Stay a while."
Summer ends. He leaves. I fight depression.
This portrait? Mere representation.
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