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Otherwise 
by Gregory Liffick 


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© Gregory Liffick 2012




Acknowledgments

 

“Weather,” “Rooted,” “Broke,” “Q-Tip,” and “Bank” were previously published in Mouse Tales Press.

 

“Wrong-of-Way” was previously published in The Montucky Review.

 

“Care” was previously published in Nerve Cowboy.

 

“Guard,” “Tears,” and “Party” were previously published in Northern Stars.

 

“Strum,” “Fib,” and “Hold” were previously published in Advocate.

 

 

  

 

WEATHER

 

Doing a

rain dance

in a

bare, dirt

field,

a clear

blue sky

laughing

at the

attempt.

The high

desert

is not

known

for its

wet kisses,

but for

its dry

sense of

humor.

 

 

 

SPOT

 

The Bible

was

dog-eared,

but

didn’t

heel or

fetch.

His pet

religion

needed

a collar

and a

leash.

God

didn’t

come

when called

and too

often

bit

the hand

that fed

Him.

 

 

 

RX

 

Crazy

under the

second

skin of

pills.

An empty

prescription

opens the

Pandora’s

Box of

troubled.

Take the

medicine

and seem

to be

normal.

 

 

 

DÉCOR

 

A kind

of

feng shui

to the

placement

of bodies

around the

neighborhood.

Shot

so that

they fall

in a

certain

direction.

The chalk

outlines

and

police tape

complete

the design

scheme.

 

 

 

CHIRP

 

Bird

in a

cage

singing

blues

to match

its

feathers.

Sad

to be

captive

near a

window

on its

soul

revealing

the sky

outside.

 

 

 

PEST

 

A fly

in the

house

disturbs

the peace

of the

universe.

Have to

swat it

to put

fragile

order

back in

place.

Does

the fly

know its

power?

 

 

 

INTO

 

Her brown

eyes

said

things

in the

middle

of a

day.

Caught

light

from the

sun

and were

deep

like

the long

shadows

against

the nearby

buildings.

 

 

 

THUMP

 

A

cavern

semi-deep

below

the town.

Main Street

the skin

of a

drum.

Cars and

trucks

passing

over

made an

echo

like hands

beating.

 

 

 

ROOTED

 

In the

shadow

of a

fence,

a stubborn

dandelion

grows.

Grass

around it,

without

much light,

has

given up

the ghost.

Surrender

is not

in the

make-up

of the

weed.

 

 

 

FALL

 

His leaving

broke her

already

half-empty

glass

into wet

shards

on the

floor.

She

suddenly

got the

Humpty Dumpty

nursery

rhyme

where all

the

pieces

could not

be put

together

again.

 

 

 

FILL

 

A fresh

page

tastes

better

to the

pen.

Wants

to sink

in

and dine

on the

clean

surface.

The

poem

is a

recipe

served

on the

empty

plate.

 

 

 

PROOF

 

Half pint

by the

pool table

trying

to stretch

to a

quart.

Drinking

a gallon

of

whiskey.

Fifth

of ego

bottled up,

wanting

to pour

from a

hip flask

size

frame.

 

 

 

BREAKS

 

Pauses

in the

river

of talk.

Dams

of breath

in the

stream of

language.

Hesitating

boulders

and logs

which

words must

struggle

past.

 

 

 

HIDE

 

Raisin

in the

heat.

A

walking

figure

on the

high, dry

mesa.

His tan

wrinkles

blend

with the

terrain.

Far from

the

local

desert

road

already

lost in

the

wild

itself.

 

 

 

Q-TIP

 

Crayons

come

in many

colors,

unlike

the wax

in my

ears.

Only

made

in a

soapy

yellow.

Can’t

help you

make

a card

for a

sick

relative.

 

 

 

FIB

 

Put words

in the

mouth

of what

he told

himself.

Made up

lies

he knew

he would

buy.

To fool

his

pride

was as

easy

as a

twist of

phrase.

 

 

 

TOUCH

 

A laying

on

of hands

seemed

needed

to heal

the

hurts.

Maybe

a

higher

force

in the tips

of the

fingers.

Hope in

something

more

than the

feeble

wringing

of palms.

 

 

 

MUSIC

 

Apart

from the

lies,

he liked

their

little talks.

Their

voices

always

made

sweet

melodies,

despite

words

without

the ring

of truth.

 

 

 

STONY

 

Made

sparks.

Two

hard

rocks

hitting

it off

at a

brick wall

club.

Whiskey

poured

over ice

like their

smiles.

Cools the

friction

of

rubbing

them

together.

 

 

 

PUNCTUATION

 

Changed

her name

to ‘Star’

and had one

tattooed

above

her lip

like a

beauty

mark.

She sees

it as

an

exclamation

point.

Others

see it

as a

period

on the

end of

a sad

sentence.

 

 

 

SLUG

 

His anger

didn’t

look back.

It was

busy

with

right now.

A list

of blows

to land

and chins

stuck out

too far

to

resist.

His past

had

already

met its

quota

of landed

shots.

 

 

 

BROKE

 

Took

from

herself

until

no change

left to

her name.

Life was

always

at the

bottom

of the

piggy

bank.

Almost

thought

the

porcelain

face was

laughing

at her.

 

 

 

HOLD

 

Pauses

for effect

in their

dialogue

sometimes

lasted

years.

A needle

in a

haystack

picking up

the

threads

of

what was

said.

Stayed

together

out of

doubt

who had

last word.

 

 

 

LID

 

He

put on

his

life

with the

hat.

Take

it off

and he

part-

timed

as a

clerk,

when not

ceasing

to be

at

home.

His

clothes

were

only

a stand

for the

fedora.

 

 

 

CRUCIFIX

 

With

so much

soap,

easy

to wash

the blood

from our

hands.

Don’t

have to

first

do no

harm.

Get in

up to our

elbows.

Just be

sure

to clean

under

the nails.

 

 

 

AUTHOR

 

She was

to him

a blank

page

he could

fill

with his

wants.

Unaware,

she went on

living

as if

she had

written

her own

story.

She wouldn’t

like

the plot

he had

in mind

for her

character.

 

 

 

CAMOUFLAGE

 

The almost

adults

change

their hair

color

like

chameleons

scared

by the

latest

trend.

Not a

whim.

Don’t fit

in with

surroundings

and you are

eaten by

fashion.

 

 

 

BANK

 

Put coins

in a

jar

to

add up

to a

five and

dime

dream.

Ends up

mostly

pennies

after a

robbery

for

pizza

money.

 

 

 

SOUR

 

Bit an

apple

from his

own

tree.

It

wasn’t

all truth.

Had

a worm

in it

that told

suspect

stories.

Adam

and Eve

were in

a whole

other

garden.

 

 

 

ARSON

 

He

struck her

head

like a

match,

leaving

burn marks

on

romance.

Any heart

can

catch

fire.

But he

poured

gasoline

on hers.

 

 

 

GLOBE

 

Eyes

set apart

like

windows

in separate

houses.

Face as

round

and wide

as a

pie plate.

His head

was

more than

a look

could

take in

in a

single

trip.

 

 

 

TEARS

 

A few

drops

of rain

on a

clear

day.

Is He

crying

over the

beauty

of His

own

work?

Even

the all-

mighty

gets

choked up

by the

simple

things.

 

 

 

WRONG-OF-WAY

 

The roots

of the

growing

trees

pushed up

the

sidewalk.

The

marriage

of the two

was short-

sighted.

What

seemed

like a

good, young

couple

didn’t

age well

for

passersby.

 

 

 

PURIFICATION

 

Hit him

with an

old

soap

on a

rope

to back

him off

in the

shower.

Wasn’t

invited in.

His thoughts

too dirty.

Had been

with him,

but now

wanted

to wash off

the shame

alone.

 

 

 

EASTER

 

Rolled

the boulder

from the

door,

but didn’t

rise

from the

dead

in his

man cave.

Sunday

just

another

day.

Hung over

from Friday.

 

 

 

PARTY

 

Tried

to be

detached

as the

plot

and air

in the

room

thickened.

Hearts

jumped off

sleeves

where

liquor

had worn

them.

Guests

bounced

off walls

like

marbles

in a tin

bucket.

 

 

 

HOBBLE

 

Tried

to walk

away,

but

his legs

weren’t

under him.

The knees

had

gone,

always

trying

to stay

a step

ahead.

Should

have

stretched

more

when the

flesh

wasn’t

so weak.

 

 

 

CARE

 

Wrong

word

like a

knife

in the

back of

a poem.

See the

language

bleeding,

its life

running

out on

the page.

Remove

the blade

and

close

the wound

with

healing

editing.

 

 

 

ISLAND

 

His own

company

was a

crowd.

Kept to

himself

even

in his

own

mind.

Only

visited

himself

for repairs

and other

upkeep.

 

 

 

NIAGARA

 

Authorities

talk

down their

noses

in the

air.

A

stream

of words

well

and fall

from their

mouths

over

their

stuck up

chins.

 

 

 

STRUM

 

She

played

guitar

to let

her

fingers

move

through

memory.

Ears that

wanted

to listen

to past

songs

tuned

the strings

to strike

those

chords.

 

 

 

TITHE

 

His faith

was

running

a tab

with the

Lord.

Hadn’t

been a

prayer

of paying

with an

“amen”

in a

month of

Sundays.

Would

someday

have to

make good

on the

bill.

Maybe

washing

dishes.

Or feet.

 

 

 

CURT

 

Not much

in his

greeting

but the

time

of day.

His awkward

hug

a sheet

of ice

not a

blanket

of warmth.

If there

was ever

an

ember,

it had

died

from the

chill.

 

 

 

ONE

 

Let his

nephew

slip

through

life

cracks.

The

bond

was not

thicker

than water

under

a burned

bridge. 

He

cried

“uncle”

on the

job

when

he chose

to work

alone.

 


















 
 
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