Poems by Bruce Dethlefsen

Suicide Aside

suicide aside
try watching birds
regard them as they fly like salt to bread
spice up this crusty world

a giant spider web
their lines of flight
tie up and bind the world

they fly
birds jump up in the air and stay
you try it
flap your arms for all you’re worth
no way you’re stuck
they’re free to leave the world

the colors
lemon zest and lime and berry
sugar coffee cream
and all the rest
sublime delicious flavors how
our eyes drink in the world

and listen to them sing
the wind becomes a thing alive
with music whistles squawks and chirps
a melody of world

so tell me why you thought you’d rather die
check out pluck all the feathers
close the lights

alright don’t tell me
but please me
stick around a while
with me to watch the birds
see how they swirl and turn the world

—Bruce Dethlefsen

from Breather

A Vacant Lot in Guatemala

a harmony of rats and roses
fills the vacant lot next door
with music separated from the world
by walls of brown adobe

the music rises
as the roses shuffle
in the wind of the volcano
their thorns outstretched
to claw and scratch the walls

the music rises
as the rats sway
crooning in the ocean breeze
a honeyed melody
against a sky of blue and white

and each red petal falls
onto the yellow teeth of the marimba
producing notes though sweet
become the elemental horror of the song

because all roses smell of rats
and rats of roses

(Quetzaltenango, Guatemala 1998)

—Bruce Dethlefsen

from Something Near the Dance Floor

Cross My Heart

don't cross my heart
I hope to die by water
              not actually at the hands of water
              but next to water
              nearly touching the water
maybe among ferns
              ferns that drip
                            with golden coffee sunlight
that would be fine, really
              that would be just fine

—Bruce Dethlefsen

from A Decent Reed