Jacob Strautmann's debut book of poems The Land of the Dead Is
Open for Business is available from Four Way Books, and his
second book New Vrindaban is forthcoming in Fall 2024. Jacob
Strautmann's poems have appeared in The Boston Globe, The
Appalachian Journal, Southern Humanities Review, and Blackbird.
The boy with the crew cut
Gritted his teeth to speak
His faith to my ear, my back
Scraped against the brick
Chapel, his fist twisting
My shirt collar in the shadow
The wall and morning made:
A "true believer," he said,
"Why would you accept our
Eucharist, you don't know
Anything, do you?" Leaned
In close to deal, "No priest
Would care I broke your nose."
When the boy was banned,
Kicked out of camp, I stayed
Like the donkey beside his
Master. He had other angers,
Multitudes, told me he took
His Slugger to the saplings
Jesuits planted Easter
On the crick side, left them
Flat. That did it. Was sure God
Was angry like him, and I
Was a true believer. His father
Drove in from another state
All the lengthening afternoon.
Through the desert I paced
Beside him, the Jerusalem
Of his Paranoias, muzzle
Dotted with nits, my bond
My word. And when I carried
His books to the car, I shook
His father's hand, a frank,
Genuine grip. But he was
Wrong—I knew some things:
Jesus, for instance, a suicide.
Later I hiked to the creek
To find his broken dogwoods
Your name bangs open, a bell in middle life,
But your name won't ring, or husband your return,
Or father unharmed
The man we love: the kite of a name,
(Not the weight of a hand),
Worries to nothing in a tall magnolia.
Branches will blanch the city of Cleveland
As you resist
The startled passel calling to
Where you struck first.
The Scalding Bath
A key in the latch,
He is the question
His children ask
As the quiet dinner
Unfolds its separate
Mouths. Hasn't he
Become the brand
He roosted against?
Moths, brown sugar,
A pan skitters down
The kitchen counter.
She lies, her eyes
To have him back."
They eat the bulb
Of garlic raw,
The cat demands
As much. The vinyl
Records slept on
For eighteen months
Warp with her weight,
Will not play.
What Is Now Proved
The mother leaves the man for a small
Room every three hours with her infant—
Inside they share their greatest privacy.
The other, he's in the brick world.
Should he meet a fellow, he steps aside,
All his earnest preparations disproved
As he shuts down in another dark cove
At the corner of Market and Summer.
Cancel the brightest of the sensorium.
It is easier to sit in the familiar sighs,
Smells of a taproom, and savor a thesis,
But in his cups, he arrives as blessed
As his child; he was ever beautiful,
And his first grasp or glance denuded
Meanings of all cover, at once a fiery
Linked chain, a supernova, red-cheeked.
Three hapless deliveries tug him outward
Where streetlamps splutter and surprised
Dandelions lift off in a babe's howl.
Back to Front.