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Poetry by Dwaine Rieves


Pearl Street Gardenia

In place of a sapling  
that under sidewalk tree box 
conditions just couldn’t 

make it, in alabaster 
petals and perimeter tints 
of urine, the blossoms do 

what they can, sorrow 
picking at people prone to bending
down before a mitten or

banged-up sippy cup. 
Things change once
they’re no longer wanted 

though a street 
side discovery may toy 
with any workable agenda.

For a dropped 
pacifier does not prove every 
baby is crying, nor ripped 

lotto tickets tag us 
all losers.  The sidewalk is wiser, 
some dogs always 

pulling, most babies 
happily distractible.  Under-
standing, as the good 

lover teaches, begins 
with a sip.  Every bus is humbled 
once the stop arrives.  

The wheeze goes 
with a courteous bow before 
the door opens.  

It is the quaint 
visitation of an overlooked 
arrival, the gift of 

a gardenia stinging 
the same nerve an elderly clerk 
in the cafeteria 

checkout line used to 
touch when handing over 
my change.  

The lady never looked 
up, attention fixed on my open 
palm, eyes settling on 

the creases before saying
as she passed me the cash—
Thank you, Sweetie.


Having heard the colossal substance  
of immortality told by a childless poet

Colossal beyond 
earth’s slim cervix, the shout 
colossal in contraction 

and wiggling delivery, 
every word stitched post-birth within 
a lawyer’s brick house

where, top floor, 
Miss Dickinson looked out always 
nine months or more 

away from what 
lawyers might not call delivery.
Perhaps laboring for  

people like me 
to understand her female take on the body 
or sex and its short-term

license.  Colossal 
in a stilled scream’s delivery, we might 
mistake stitched-up lines 

to mean God 
made pain one with being rather than 
release, a colossal 

error probably 
only a woman like her could see 
in a world strapped 

between a window’s 
stirrups, her God colossal in the omnipotent 
instant when another 

rip might reword 
relief in a colossal eternity, with nipples 
for suckling.

When Asked What She Wanted to Do, Mavis Answered

Art, on average, pays 
far less than sex for money.  
Anxiety’s blister is a typical 
first symptom of inequity, not
for what it is (a sign actually) 
but what it might become, glory
bulging beneath 
the surface, guilt ballooning
creative sensations.  
What’s your favorite color 
they ask in children’s church.  
Red always wins.  
Usually a girl who, 
I suspect, fancies 
herself asymptomatic until 
the congregation laughs. 
Or a boy, covered in boyish
authority despite medication.  
Artists can’t exist 
without childish eruptions, what 
some might call 
lesions, a near genetic need felt 
well before anyone asks about 
pressure, that urge 
to keep creating 
something like prayer, albeit
sexualized with meaning, anguished 
colors malleable as children
in laughable but precise 
decisions, the streak 
of red on yellow no sex 
scene or sunrise breaking, 
but a song to close out 
the smiling service, one 
tooth missing the work’s 
sometime celebration. 

The Bull

Between horizontal slats of unpainted fence—
2 x 6’s rip-sawed to reveal tree rings grain, years 

sliced into solar systems and orbiting planets, worlds 
left raw, mapped out in natural stains—

there’s a living bull looking back, disturbed 
at being watched and about it angry, head cocked 

and ears distended, nostrils bulging 
like the double darkness must in male species 

when suddenly examined.  I can’t say I was 
alone or lonely or before the old cow pen 

by choice, or the bull perplexed by sawed-up years 
framing me as a man trapped within 

long slats of my own unearthing.  
But when the nares flared, I felt Jupiter arise 

from his throne, his kingdom so vast and me 
so certain I called him father.


Dwaine Rieves was born and raised in Monroe County, Mississippi. He worked as a garment plant custodian and Frisco Railroad brakeman before attending Ole Miss and graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. He works odd-times as a research pharmaceutical scientist and unbelievably odd times with poetry. His collection, When the Eye Forms, won the 2005 Tupelo Press Prize for Poetry. Shirtless Men Drink Free is his first novel.

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