Four Poems by Jon Dambacher

He would stand facing the heavily blockaded window,
yawning inappropriately,
laughing without clear motivation.
“You fucked up,” he whispers,
“You fucked up,
I know you fucked up, it’s okay.
You fucked up, you fucked it up…”
People finally reached a point where they’d no longer like to listen and they would yell.
Some would threaten to beat him.
When he would do his wild repetitive rants
in the lines and in faces of certain officers
they would beat him for us.
He and I had only one brief interaction,
when he and I were the only witnesses to a suicide
in a shaded area off away from the basketball court.
The other man leaned gently against the wall,
set his head back to peer angrily into the sun.
The two of us
off away in the shade
witnessed the man’s swift and jagged gash
against the flexed veins of his wrists.
Two on the left and one deep, gruesome cut on the right.

It was the first time I saw the ranting man in complete silence.
He jumped to his feet,
jaw dangling, his eyes darting around,
his arms whirled, he stumbled backward,
tripping on his heel to the ground which he quickly sprung up from,
gasping as if the ghost of the dying man had shoved him down.
He ran off to another wall,
grasping it from behind with his palms,
looking for another place to dash off to,
he charged indoors to hide or to seek help,
this time screeching as if he were the one who’d slit his own wrist.

I didn’t see him after this.
I heard someone’s conversation
flavored with a joke
about how he tried to escape.
I heard they locked him up downstairs
where no one had to listen to him ranting anymore.
Some nights I can hear slight repetitive echoes of his refrain,
“You fucked up, it’s okay.
I know you fucked up…”


I felt good seeing their freshly purchased little home,
though the grey ground showed no signs of growing grass
the new owners have made a solid attempt at revitalizing their front yard.
New flowers and bushes have been planted,
exposing the darkness of recently dug dirt,
the healthiest of which being the sunflowers.

When they’re done
the sunflowers will stretch and scale the short wooden fence
lining the yard someday soon.
Noticing the work table
with sawed pieces of measured wood chunks
and the tired woman sitting on the front porch steps
rocking her baby on her lap,
tilting her head toward the garage
to blow out her cigarette smoke.

As I pass on the sidewalk
we meet eyes and with a polite authentic grin
I tell her, “This is going to be great.”


Quietly, not yet accustomed to their time zone
we sit among the cigarette infused floorboards of the dining room,
emptying those morning chilled glasses of blood orange juice,
scraping fridge’d butter squares across hardened toast,
the cereal is soon to expire,
we left the danish alone.

Chewing our breakfast silently and lazily grinning at each other,
at the silence of the room,
mindful of the older gentleman tonguing his thumb with every turn of his German newspaper.
When he is finished he takes the final gulp of his coffee
watching the cloud formations beyond the window.

You rest backward in your seat to sigh after our economic breakfast,
eyeballing the woven flower pattern of the tablecloth,
the gilded crown modeling high above,
and from your sudden glance toward him
I watch the older man lift a corner of his paper offering it to me,
I decline with a nod.
He looks the two of us over,
rubs his upper lip over his gums, swallows.
His eyes don’t leave us once as he grips the arms of the chair to rise,
replaces himself with the newspaper,
makes his way back toward the staircase.
By his interrogating glare I knew he understood us to be an unmarried couple.
His sauntering exit from the dining room produced many creeks within the floor,
inside his few steps I felt a lack of confidence regarding my affairs with this woman.

The hex was broken when the master of the house crossed the old man’s path
with a ladder and cigarette in his mouth
replacing a lightbulb within the chandelier between our table and the newspaper.
From you came a small snicker, having taken simple bizarre note of the old man’s glare,
not thinking much should be invested in it
you produced a small map and began with the day’s itinerary.

The confidence wore off that evening as I was unable to finish,
leaving the bed and you,
I sat on the balcony in underwear
smoking one of your cigarettes
watching the lights and people
sitting and speaking
silently in their apartments across the street.


More mornings than I’d like to admit were spent
in those cells, unthawed,
sick with restlessness,
beating myself off into an E-flat climax
which rested against the bottom of the Styrofoam cup
I brought in from the messhall.

It’s become less and less interesting as the time’s gone on.
Every night ends with watching the sun rise in silence.
I’ve long since tuned out all the human shuffling
and sounds of inanimate things about me,
watching the sky illuminate.

When the sun hits your face,
a slice against you,
a strike from a venomous snake
with honey falling from its fangs.
Its bite stirs the emptiness in my cage.
The metal awakens,
expressing itself.
The guarded glass sighs.
The pills of fabric
in these dead clothes
turn more and more to dust.
The Styrofoam cup stands on the contagious floor,
away from footsteps,
in the shadow under the cot,
at the foot-end,
where the smell doesn’t drift up and find me.


Profile: Jon Dambacher

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