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Robert Dante

Lessons in Charm

with some few precious possessions, I treasure too

our Scorpions, in each tail

a self-indulgence

like a black leather rose, rising

from a red bible,

red as lips which kiss arteries,

smooth as thumbs along lapels,

hammers of steel ringing

against evening’s elemental colors, as we

pause to catch our breaths

between ticket stubs—


we try to remember what day it is,

which city we’re in, Teasingly—

“The South ain’t what it was,” I sigh;

“It never was,” you say.

Miles Per Hour

(for Sally Richardson)

one motel room after another

the same motel bed

                        night on night

the same TV sit-coms

                        different sets, unnumbered channels

a postcard for my pocket,

as I leave, a book of matches,


I smoke that cigarette I stubbed out

yesterday, about this time—

the maid made my bed by noon

while I was gone, again

(I think the same invisible maid

follows me, a few miles behind)—

I can’t stand it

I walk to the restaurant around the corner

                        yes checkered curtains

                        yes mints by the cash register

                        yes the trucks whooshing past

                                    the rattling windows

and yes I recognize my dinner

                        before we’re introduced

and I Know

                        Exactly what I’ll dream tonight

while I here watch one

more day of my life disappear, swept

into the evening swirling

                                    down the road.

Red Telephones

(for Butler)

a red telephone

makes every call an Emergency—


“Hello? I’ll be right over. . .”

And suddenly I’m eating two pancakes

a Sunday afternoon, with friend Butler,

watching police cars

            cruise by shimmering with sun heat

over cold coffee and conversation

through a diner’s pale florescent lights


We’re in one hell of a hurry,

deadline coming,

under the gun

            and ready to Go


I glance at my watch from

time to time as though to check

some urgent schedule

or countdown,

even these tile-floor echoes

of my youth


            on the run

Reverse Revenge

I am afraid

he couldn’t care less—

                        I pull the trigger


the bullet spins out through his skull

                        untwists a few hairs

                        spirals back into a straight line

                        picks up velocity as it goes

into the gun’s muzzle—

a puff of smoke snakes in sudden time

                        back into the barrel as I

                                    unpull the trigger

I untie him

forgive him


It always works—

he’ll kill himself in three days

                        and leave his kidneys to a cousin he’s never seen

Secret Music

(for Ginny)


I open my eyes

new-light shock


a face I recognize before I see it

                        says my name


my dream includes reality

it is Boulder Colorado



embracing water

                        glass on couch-bed table

apartment sounds through open door

embracing miracle in my arms

hands under wool blankets

curtains open to brilliant hour outside

the golden dream continues

two lovers



time begins again

shirts are buttoned

streets climbed


one classroom with dancers

two dancers with poetry in their hands

one poem with the gravity of night

two dancers midway between floor and ceiling

two compasses pointing north

one poet watching two dancers with one poem in their hands

one poem with arms and legs

one poem that slowly lifts its head

one poem that steps into the sunlight

                        with a face I recognize


The Clouds Had Ribs

we crash through a few quick towns—

Bobby’s full of coffee, smoking Camels

I stare at oil wells, cattle and cactus:

it’s all a dream where I bomb school buses,

                        dance black boots over boulders,

see a roof ripped apart, and, shouting,

                                    skitter away

                        from 2-inch thick tornadoes

in a bamboo garden—

                        I whisper into the night that I

pulled the pin

and tossed that wizard flash

that killed

                        Harvey Corman


from rafters I watch

the stool below my legs

                        tip over and fall

I land on my feet

and confess:

                        magic in the first degree


I walk away from the lies

those Kill-You realities—

I think somewhere Back There was

a woman who knew me and was not terrified by

                        that truth

The Persistence of Memory

Sunlight billows through

the sea in unanswered worlds

around us—


flowers blossom in my fingers,

down your shoulders and breasts,

unfurling whorls of light along

the singing nerves

inside my sky-brown arms


limbs of coiling smoke, we weave

unloomed imaginations—

we breathe . . .


Direct communication between species

is already a fact,

beyond our merely beating on those barriers

between us—the wolf and human

will howl new poems

into each other’s bones—


we will engrave the trembling planets

with a common footprint

and gaze out at new Zodiacs

through a single eye . . .


We pull ourselves shimmering

up, toward the surface of sleep—

the tentacles inside my chest

fly on a phosphorescent current,

hungry for more

The Price


dreams of memory—singing ghosts fill

                        my small bedroom with northern lights—

on shores of sleep, my footprints take the waves


                                    *   *   *


today yawns

I wake—a dark skid

the outside bright world a blast of intravenous deja vu

my left hand in the bathroom mirror

                        rubs an old scar


too much memory in the present tense

                        can pull anyone’s mind to pieces

but tears do not clot—each night the same

                                                ghosts sing their names,


my younger face

                        glittering in their eyes

Traffic Overture


Oh Lord—for all my sins

                        hypothesized or consummated

in the name of every person I’ve insulted

                        be he bus driver, friend, or stupid cashier

for all the evils that I have done

for all the good that I have left undone

for all that, and more, much more, oh Lord

if you had wished to punish me

                        (your fiendish Humor divine)

you would have put me on a narrow road

at a very high speed

in a horrible thunderstorm

                        with a line of highballing trucks

                                    stuck behind me, honking the heavens apart

and oh Lord here I am

on that road

in this storm

with those trucks coming up my ass,

                        their bright lights on,

                                    Honking, Honking


Oh Lord I swish, I sway

(will I see tomorrow, ever?)


Oh Lord, Your lightning is terrible

it frightens me from my nails to my hair, and yet

                        I cannot get off this goddamn road

this road which has no apron or exit;

Here comes another ambulance. . .


visions of Icarus breathing bloody water

consume me, then

Amelia Erhart pressed back into her seat,

                        knuckles white, muscles weak

next, flashes of hundreds of parachutists

                        cords wrapped around their ankles

squashed flat on the earth


Oh Lord horrible, this vision of me

                        wrapped around a tree,

or crawling out of a jagged tangle

to scrawl my blood type in my own blood across the asphalt,

watching my last desperate hieroglyph

wash away under the rain, pink then gone

                        even as I fade, face-first

or being plucked, nit by nit

out of a chromium grill,

                        a shoebox of shredded cubic centimeters

                                    of my former self


Horrible, oh Horrible:

Prometheus shrieks at that eagle devouring his liver;

my own Fears with wingtips aflame

                        are tearing at my nerves—

Will this rain ever end?


Lord Lord Lord Honk Honk Honk

Lord Lord Lord

Honk Honk Honk

Lord Lord Lord

Honk Honk Honk Lord

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