David Ensminger was born under a plastic Missouri sun in the skinny
shadows of trailer parks until his family fled to corn row Illinois, where he
began self-publishing poetry and music zines with the help of clunky Xerox
machines when he wasn't playing drums in punk bands. He attended seven
colleges and universities, stuffing America under his belt, all the while
publishing in underground chapbooks and journals like Extra Cheese, Subbild
(Germany), Lilliput Review, Flower, Caveat Lector, In the Throes, Fuel, Poesflesh,
and many more. As a music journalist, he has also written for Cowboys and
Indians, Thirsty Ear, Houston Press, and various zines in Europe. In 1999, he
started his own music magazine, Left of the Dial, which can be found online.
Presently, he teaches in the English Dept. at Western Oregon University as
the coast of beatnik Oregon shudders near him. He has recently published
in Detroit Dispatch and by the on-line journal Stirring.
On Christmas Eve I navigated my
Prozac haze and crammed the kids
into the Ford Bronco and dropped
them off at the U.S. Post Office to witness
the miniature mechanical Douglas fir
tree sing "Little Drummer Boy."
Two hours later they were shook down
In reparation, I took
them downtown to Peace Park, where
some guy welded aluminum foot ladders
into stars that looked like aluminum
foot ladders and another guy built a
video X-Mas tree. Monitors were stacked
six feet high over a shallow, metal-
It was beguiling. A wounded poem
in the sky.
The kids gaped open their
tiny mouths, eyes darting from the
shrewd digital images to the clunky high rises
that mumbled above us. I laughed, knowing
that peace had nothing to do with it, that
aluminum was best in beer cans, and Christmas
meant something only a TV could convey.
From Across The Photography Studio Parking Lot
in a morning gray as toothpaste -
as the sun looked nothing more
than a specimen in a pharmacy
jar, I peered out my paint-chipped
1930's windows sometimes held
up by rocks
only to see three workmen decked
up in yellow orange caution suits
and protective eye gear that made
them oval faced and lunar as 8
millimeter film footage of Neil
Armstrong on the wrong face of the
they grabbed tiny chainsaws
clipped to the end of thin bare
poles and chopped down the limbs
of the weedy matter-of-fact trees
that skirt Alabama St. like toenails
longish and yellow in sandals...
weedy trees, yes, but lusty as live oaks
in Louisiana across flat Creole
backwater, now just limbs fallen akimbo
in loose piles, rough beige splices
where they once scratched
car roofs and dropped desiccated
leaves on bus stop 7 a.m.s
the workers circled, climbed a grimy
part garbage truck part Sherman tank
behemoth, the trees looked anorexic,
shuddered of all life, the diesel
smell curdled mid-air and the sound
of cranking mulched fibrous stew segued
with the sound of pissed off dogs
and new quicksilver pothole Mazdas
trees older than my damn
blistering windows, older than
slouchy me, tossed into the truck's
belly to be unceremoniously shat
into the city dump or pressed around
dying trees in the Third Ward
before basketball nights where
mud-splattered blue port-a-potties
buzz with mosquitoes and whiffs
of rank vinegar.
this is what becomes of the
transcendentalist city - the lone
eye of easygoing nature,
survivor woods, mowed down,
harnessed, split and gutted
by men whose salaries belittle
teachers, yet whose arms reek of
Heart of an Artichoke
Jack spent his mornings
avoiding headlines. The coffee
sank in his throat, never
quite warming him. Breakfast
at 39 was like buying gas.
Annoying and uneventful.
Maggy kept the kids away,
resorted to digging her nails
in their soft heads. Sunlight
stretched and fell across the
unwashed floor. Marriage was
tax nightmares, minivans, and
the small peck of a kiss enhanced
by an overgrown beard.
Jack tried to remember a song
by Bob Dylan. What he sang
right before the cops broke his
hand in the yard where he played
basketball and sniffed glue
instead of napalming villagers.
Or was it Donovan, that song?
Maggy dropped the kids off for
afternoon preschool, taped Oprah,
and felt Happy Hour inch along her
nerves. The kids took crayons and drew
guns on each other's face. And Jack
listened to nipples and matchbooks
in a wet hotel room.
Dinner meant TV, coughing, soiled
napkins, and a phone call from the
school's nurse. The kids? Press one
When Jack spoke to Maggy, her eyes
crossed a different dream. While
he bowled, she woke in a street lamp
flutter and took the phone off the hook.
From her second story window, she looked
at the security night bulb near
her driveway, letting it sink into her skin.
The kids masturbated each other. The
moon was thin and desperate. And Jack
forgot their anniversary.
Life was good.
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