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John Amen: Three Poems
Secrets | Fear of Death | After the Exhaustion


How many childhoods have come and gone
like lassoes, how many incarnations
spent picking with broken fingers
at that Gordian knot called grief?

One thing I am sure of,
even if the Sphinx's riddle is solved,
I will still be devoured.

The Rapture will come and go
like a snow flurry in the deep south.
What will remain are the things
we have built highways around,
pupa writhing inside steel cocoons,
all we have learned not to speak of
when the sun goes down.

Fear of Death

I remember, as a teenager, laboring in the
peach orchard, but at day's finish, when the sun
hung over the mountain like a drooping eyelid,
abandoning ladders and pitchforks,
throwing down baskets as if I were God
and it was the dawning of the seventh day.

Then, things began and concluded;
days were born and demised; red earth
taught me the aesthetics of death.
But when I came to the city,
a restless soldier in need of war,
I began murdering myself for a living.
Like a child in the fifties taught to hate Russians,
I grew to despise death. I locked my thoughts
and bulked my body against its entry.
Days stretched like a repeating decimal.
Life became as irresolvable as pi.

It becomes a habit, to never let a
thing die—devouring caffeine pills,
making love while playing chess on a cell phone,
terrified to yield to that persistent Satan, sleep.
No one can be still long enough to crawl into a cocoon,
why else are there so few butterflies in our midst?

After the Exhaustion

I tore down entire cities
to study what lies beneath
concrete slabs, tilted foundations,
the palimpsest of epitaphs.
Grief is leading me down
a dirt road of madness
toward an abandoned town called sanity.
My story is ripening like a peach,
growing succulent like tomatoes in August. How
can a man pass through turnstiles and tollbooths,
put his signature to a million daily contracts,
and yet fail to learn his own name?
Finally I know what happens in the factories,
cafes and salons is as holy as what
gestates in the dusty sanctum sanctorum.
These are two worlds, but they are like the
moon and the sea, and I am living in both.

Poet's Biography:
  John Amen's poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in various publications, including The Drunken Boat, Sidereality, The Melic Review, 2River View, Samsara Quarterly, Disquieting Muses, and Branches Quarterly. He has performed widely as a musician, both as a solo act and with a band, and has released three recordings, Wild but Willing, Eat Mine, and Four Forty Four. His first book of poetry, Christening the Dancer, is scheduled to be released in late 2002. He is Editor-in-Chief of the online literary publication The Pedestal Magazine.

© 1999 - 2003, by the poets featured herein.