An American Love Song
Somewhere, a man who voted for last year’s Pilate
is choking down sobs between sips of good American beer.
Johnny Cash is playing on the jukebox.
I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die
streams between the electric crackle of static.
We find love stories in soot-stained hands,
gaze straggled out from the stars to the mire.
Shiny gems of souls locked in prison vaults,
the twittering madness lashed against steel bars.
Unwanted men falling, falling, this is ballet.
One punch releases demons, one moment’s peace
in the thunderclap of imploding bone.
Some cannot survive love’s passing:
their bodies stitched with it like sutures, hands
always open, voices raised in praise to God
for rough-hewn men whose coarsened labors
keep machine gears grinding.
The cement beneath our feet is always unraveling.
We find grace in the strangest places,
Eyes. Black coffee. Love stories.
Soft hands draw us in from undertow.
Embraces, the promise of storms subsiding.
This is always a love story:
One hand clasped tight in desperation,
the other extended outward, like a gift.
This world is rain that pounds like jackhammers,
heads bowed down against the torrent.
The beer is warming. Soon it will be little more
than carbonation and bitter aftertaste.
Play One More For My Radio Sweetheart
10) I knew about snapped bass strings and the boy in Long Beach, knew you’d stripped yourself of even your name, but I wasn’t alarmed until I’d heard she’d rescued your cats.
9) It’s always been split lips and sheathed knives between us, but you were there when the bitch threw rocks at her windows, when the boogeyman slammed fists against her door at 3 a.m., and for that, I’m grateful.
8) Your wedding photos chill me – I search the crowd shots to find my own face lost amid the smiling friends in ill-fitting tuxedoes, like some specter of me was there to dance with you.
7) You laid the guitar in the closet and it disappeared entirely, but sometimes you can hear familiar chords echoing through the house’s rafters, each song a funeral dirge.
6) The radio bears no songs of you and me and what we’ve lost to the needle; when the world condenses to the back seat of a station wagon, no food for days, the body propelled by small snakes slithering in your veins. No more.
5) No exorcism for ghosts that walk like the living, that telephone desperate and starving from gas station parking lots, begging change for reheated burritos, building a mausoleum of Styrofoam wrappers.
4) The boy’s no good for you, will chip away at you until you are something less, a bauble to be placed on a shelf.
3) She is gone, and her absence rattles like the wind through an empty garage, the whistle of air kissing emptied glass bottles. It haunts you at night when your eyes snap open, disturbed from sleep by a song your fingers still recall how to play.
2) I miss hearing you sing.
1) I should have been there.
BIO: Victor D. Infante is the editor of the online literary journal, Radius, and the author of City of Insomnia, a poetry collection from Write Bloody Publishing. His poems and stories have appeared in numerous periodicals, including Pearl, Chiron Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Spillway, Word Riot and Dark Horizons. He's American, but used to live in England. Now he lives in NewEngland, which is less similar than you'd think.