Poetry — May 25, 2017 13:08 — 0 Comments

Three Poems – Jeff Burt


I wanted you to know
that I have read your rants,
the scrawled graphite
on torn pieces of newspaper,
seen you pawing through loose papers
like a bear over blueberries,
your life in two soiled duffel bags
dragged like cloth dolls,
jotted demented phrases disconnected
from each other and reality,
euphoric exclamations
about finding shoes at the bottom
of your legs, socks to boot,
these miniature ragged texts
your Van Gogh self-portrait
pouring out of an old dirty backpack.

While others post on sites offering intimacy
to a thousand connected friends
you pin your scrap and scribbles
on public boards, poles,
where perhaps only one person
reads it, and when you scratched
that “a soccer ball lures players
like the sun a dancing head
of a sunflower in the breeze”
and in the fading graphite
on the torn yellow legal paper
I write back “I’ve seen it too.”


Losing the Damned

What desert quiet between us,
what lack of language bloom.
I think of our hands chafed from hulling
the truth from the chaff of silence,
each of us counting the cost of keeping silent
by killing time, standing still
while the body’s metronome beats within us
and our work not yet completed.

Where do paths diverge?
I think back to roads we could have taken,
the high road of the holy saving the saved,
or the honorable path of Pontius Pilate
where we could have lost the saved
but washed our hands of them,

or taken the fork our fathers took
to farm the fields of men
damned and forgotten
to bring to the fruit of salvation,
or this path, where we reach out
for the dispossessed possessed who lie
on the streets and fill restrooms and doorways
with an odor of a genius gone rancid,

and the truth of losing the damned
is that we preached the reaching toward
and we were without the reach,
were within their reach,
the reached for, and they were broken
and trying to break us, and they did,
our silence says they did.


We Walk Into the Outer Skies 

flushed by a spring flood
of storms and murder

beneath haphazard clusters
of clouds and outcroppings of birds

a schoolyard
full of missing children

rinsed by sunlight
torn by wind

sky thin like a fishbone
stuck in a cry

mirage of God grieving
over our wide lake of violence

curdled, clotting, a witness
to the bleeding muted

hearing contrabandistas overhead
the widening thunder

the slapping of shovels
digging up unmarked graves


Jeff Burt lives in the Central Coast of California, and works in mental health. He has work in or forthcoming in The Nervous Breakdown, Atticus Review, Cold Mountain Review, Wisconsin Review, and won the 2016 Consequence Fiction Prize.

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What am I?

Bioluminescent eye
That sees by the shine
Of its own light. Lies

Blind me. I am the seventh human sense
And my stepchild,

Scientists can't find me.

Januswise I make us men;
Was my image then—

Remind me:

The awful fall up off all fours
From the forest
To the hours…

Tick, Tock: Divine me.

-- Richard Kenney