After a career in the telecommunications industry, Robert Eastwood taught High School
English. He has three poetry chapbooks, by Small Poetry Press: Over Plainsong, The
Welkin Gate, and Night of the Moth (Small Poetry Press's Select Poets Series). He has twice
been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in numerous journals, on-line
and in print, including Blue Unicorn, Carquinez Review, Ekphrasis, Talking River Review, New
Zoo Poetry Review, The Oxford Magazine, The Dirty Napkin, Mobius, Raintown Review, and others.
The first day a round fellow in a kimono
invited me into an apartment
papered in a collage of penises.
I must repair his instrument, he said,
waiting for my flinch. You could say
his walls resembled paintings of human faces
emerging out of carrots, turnips
and twisted celery stalks––except these
tedious walls writhed of wilted cat-tails.
Suspense is the final lap
you'd been made to think was going well––
when a guy with massive quads
ices sweat on your shoulder.
That's '71. Me and Bobby McGee.
ICBM's. Polyester leisure suits.
Tricky Dick and Viet Nam.
Then a nation-wide strike of AT&T.
I walked, a management scab,
through Greenwich Village
twelve hours a day, always into the unexpected––
as if today always became tomorrow.
Once I knelt to twist my screwdriver
while naked bodies surrounded me
in Klieg light heat, the fretting director
dressed in Speedos, a Kiss tee.
Ah, the virginal relief of dial tone.
I climbed into the Chelsea hotel to repair phones.
Dylan T. bellowed in the walls.
I spliced wire across tenement roofs,
tarred and torn, aging in the sun.
I gave a few bucks to a grunge that crouched
in piss-radiant shadows of brownstone stairs,
his cheeks mossed of grime and blood.
I hid my beneficence on company vouchers––
until I saw my derelict gunning a cop car.
At night, I'd sink beneath enormous towers,
built they said to last and last,
into the PATH tube's dingy light and arm-pit air,
to emerge, older than expected, on a Jersey cloud.
Improvised Composition With Parameters
Whence, that knocking? Whence that din?
A saleslady, tartan clad, I espy, brandishing a bottle.
And so the little improv group began its riff.
Jazz with words, one phrase, one lifted
eyebrow, one wink playing off the other.
Good sir, have a listen. A product for your spots.
No, no, be gone. I've not the time nor inclination.
Like a game, with parries and feints,
with gambits into blind alleys.
Is that the turning point, the splice?
Oh, sir, come, come, give me your hand.
You may think what's done cannot be undone.
My hands are of your color, see, but look again.
All of us, waiting for surprise.
Her partner searches her face.
Don't struggle so. I shame to wear a spot so dark as yours.
You may think a little water clears it.
May I spit?
Then luster of a laugh lights the room,
the thrill of the unexpected.
Yet here's the spot. It remains.
Out, damned spot; out, you say.
But it won't go. What's to be done?
This product here, dear sir, Kill-a-Spot it’s called…
A pause here we all realize. Timing is crucial.
The ridiculousness has come together!
Let me daub upon you. Wash that filth…
Away you crazy woman!
Not a push! No, that's too easy.
Why, then 'tis time to do't. Fie, my good sir, fie,
a stout one such as you, and afeard?
An of a kilted one of my humble persuasion?
What, will these hands ne'er be clean?
You mar all with this starting.
Don't press too much. Give room, Lady M.
Please, let me go! Get the hell off my porch!
How easy it is then! You must consider not so deeply.
I know, I know, stand not upon the order
of your going, but go at once.
Yes! Back of the hand upon the brow.
O, O, O!
What about this woman, this place,
about America of Tea Party piques?
It isn't her oat-bucket handbag,
nor the wheeled oxygen bottle,
that pulses a viscid tube to a coupling
dangling from her neck.
Nor her cigarette-butts smoldering
after death, like a spent auto-da-fé.
Not the buttons she keeps jabbing,
ardently, with yam-like fingers.
Not the cornucopia of trills and bells,
marches, booms and toots unceasing––
the Kodacolor screen spinning
bananas and cherries, jokers and chevrons.
Not the washboard-thresh of banjos
from an ignored gazebo above the bar.
Nor digits in buzzing neon, spinning
plenty and denial above rows of slots.
Maybe it's the ropey vein on her temple
thumping a tempo of military zeal...
that says, fuck off, I'm winning, buster.
Maybe the grin she wears like an old Buick.
Maybe the angry, devil-be-damned intent.
Let her be. Let her be amid the jack-
hammer din, for this is America.
Let her feed the electric maw––
the one that's never taken a knurled coin
but hums its tally on LEDs
under a smoky nimbus––
let her go until the game plays out,
one she'll protest, but one more fair
than she thinks she's been dealt.
It's her America, crowded into
late retribution of anonymous Indians.
At The Pond
Across the darkened pond
a loon, a solitary loon.
Suppose he wrote its lyrics
in syllables, used a pencil he'd made
of cedar––paper he’d folded
from a sack of nails.
Maybe his stoop's rough plane
warped letters like the Greek
in his Harvard texts.
Such evenings ant armies
owls dropped cloaks on mice.
Suppose pines rustled
atop their dark shins,
light sputtered in a spark
from a farmer's window.
Suppose he recalled acres
consumed by what he tindered,
cooking fish in a stump.
All your botany-balderdash,
Around smoky hearths
they heated grease for gravy
and spit out his name.
What will I be,
beating their drum?
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