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On Leaving My Umbrella in Pittsburgh

Turn a corner, take the bridge & highway south.
Loss loiters like a stranger leaning against his wall 
on a fading street. I’m smiling, accelerating,
singing along to the radio. It’s a good day 
for forgetting what I don’t need anymore:
old baggage, memories that hurt too much &
take up space when I count them, people
who’ve entered my life like a knife’s clever edge
then pulled away from white lines on my skin.
Besides, rain won’t duel with me today;
it waits to try again. I’m afraid of neither 
downpours nor drowning in the oceanic sky
I’ll swim for miles before I make it home.

When My Father Smoked Cigarettes

Post-Army cool at family reunions
while nearby bluegrass blared, 
in side rooms of restaurants,
hanging out at my grandmother’s bar—
Winstons wearing his face
like an apple to a popsicle stick—
I thought it smelled wrong
as sewer gas or liver frying in another room.
It made him part of any story to be told later:
how he grew an extra finger at the beach,
the movies,
driving full-speed in his blue Olds.

It took me years to empathize
how it wasn’t the nicotine,
jolt of flame to hard breath;
he needed something to hide behind.
He placed it to his lips like a fake mustache,
easy disguise—
how he dealt with a life he hadn’t come to know or love.

When he quit, it was as if he accepted his fate,
stood naked among strangers
who never knew him whom he never knew.

My New Private Prison

one guard monitors
my exits
another logs me in-
to my isolation chamber

what place do I have
in a society 
demanding much &
offering fumes
that stink of car exhaust & rotting? 

I hear gunshots
from some other state

I watch devils on TV
they terrify me
as bees behind window blinds
serpents on the patio stairs

as I’ve scared others
with my ranting
ugly dancing

more a monster than I meant
less a free man than I often hoped 

“Where Did My Happy Poems Go?”
[question asked by Tobi Alfier]

Xed out in the voting booth, shot up & burned down 
amidst the war no one would admit to wanting, 
rinsed away with spot remover
meant to rip those dried-on bloodstains out.

Difficult to be joyous at a time like this
when signs point to fire & the next apocalypse. 

I didn’t choose it, I agree. It belongs to us 
like a stray cat with practiced razor claws:
dread could murder us in our sleep; oh, 
but look how playful, cute, as it tears apart our shins. 

We must find a way to be amused despite 
our violated skins, our hearts not fully in it. 
Laughter’s bravest when the news is bad.

“To Be or Not to Be, What’s the Big Diff?”
- Dean Young, “Enter Fortinbras”

Let’s craft a leg-bone flute so melody haunts with its hollowness.
Aren’t we horrible? Gruesome masqueraders at a kiddy prom?
Our pop songs sound like dirges with techno beats. 
How easily we learn to hate. We stand in lines. 
We grunt or keep silent as we bob for bodies at the plenty party.
We smoke whatever, pop whatever, pour whatever over ice.
Conservation of Matter: nothing ever made or wasted.
Some atoms of that smoothest bourbon once belonged to ancestors of ours,
not to mention Caesars, forests, dinosaurs.
Our atoms go on beyond us, & maybe 
in their micro-hearts of metadata they remember
a thing or two about that time when they were us, &
we were here & made our always-music from the scraps.

Ace Boggess.jpg

Ace Boggess is author of four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016). His writing appears in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Rattle, River Styx, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

Be sure to check out this exclusive interview with Ace on the Orson’s Publishing blog.