How to dance in a bad time and other poems

by Zach Fishel


How to Dance in a Bad Time

Japanese beetles fray sunflower stems
like pigtails on old skeletons.
This dancing can’t continue
without whiskey and fly fishing
in storm clouds that remember the words
we spoke on television to people throwing up
under heat lamps because of bad menus.
Leaving tips on dirty napkins for harder loves
than our own collect in the loneliness
hall of fame at the corner table of collateral damage.
She was an Elephants swinging at her own knees
for prayers sake. He counted road kill,
mumbling the steps to unwieldy
acquaintances with much suffering.
My closet is empty except for the shoes
And these leaves are chewn to pieces
Scattered across the wind like noiseless
Traffic on a rainy day.

Personal Poem #26

After Ted Berrigan

Time has left its mark
like a battered wife. The court costs
are too            much to handle
suitcases while turtles slow down violently.
Dandelions in July make a
snowstorm of all this fluff as cement
cracks at the dollar general
where women with bad teeth scream
at ugly children lifting lipstick.
Sister’s turning prettier than
dead willows that won’t stop swinging
trees can still sing. Appalachia
is beards and baldness
growing into love until I like
things enough to                   continue.
Cliffs hike the sunset and
my ears are forests counting
the stretch marks of flat moons
as a tall Jewish woman carries shapes
in her
eyes and
lets everyone drink cheap
until two (on the porch only).
Hammocks roll over ashtrays.
Marijuana for the pigs playing accordion in the wind
some like the dog days cooling down.
It would be easier to work a solid week,
vacation once a year to an ocean
town like everybody else,
but who would account for this beauty?
Where would the clouds come sit?
Is there even a question                  (there’s always some)
left to the boys grown too old
to do anything but sit
inside single bedroom
apartments waiting to be drunk again?
Fleas stay desperate. The lonely dig
scabs just to taste some        body.
Sisters turning prettier,
playing desperately in the marching band
at a DUI checkpoint.

Eating the Sailor

For my father


The only thing from the forgotten house
is a broken alarm clock stuck at 9:13.
It was the last thing standing as
the rusted porch swing
laid with the angry sunrise.

You used to mention how fields caught fire
when nobody was hunting. I became a fisherman.
Double shifts and dirty fingernails
taught me to dress a trout and put
it on the camp stove as whip-poor-wheels
would tell the story of old ghost dances
and fallen buffalo.

Pheasants dot the daylight.
Curveballs and crickets were
the comfort of diamonds run
in the backyards of forever
as the summer tired of radios
and the smell of cheap charcoal.


Driving through Pennsylvania in the snow,
your face melting the make-up
as little flakes smeared
into the local polka station,
taking each turn with two cans of beer
tucked between your legs.

To keep on
keeping on out of spite
and wearing thin the seams
of soldering.
A shatter of windshields.

withered and waiting,
a gardener finishing the harvest
of unsteady scarecrows.
The crescent of your arms
around me as a child,
the reality of pipe wrenches.


I remember the only summer I was twelve,
pitching a one hitter and sitting
in the same truck that provided a comate,
nearly perfect but missing the point.
Repeating stories on yellowed post-its.

We listen to routine punch
itself in place like a panicked festival.
This restlessness against the grasses
sending dandelions off to die quiet as batteries.

There’s only one photo of your grin,
my brother and I clinging
to your Atlian shoulders,
afraid of the Chesapeake’s hot sand.
The edges sun-aged and eating the sailor,
those singing waves are not a dirge.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Zach Fishel‘s poetry has appeared in numerous journals, and received two Pushcart Nominations. His latest chapbook, “Thorn bushes and Fishhooks” will be out later this year via Night Ballet Press.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Artist Nannette Guinto Amorado