"Ain't Sit in Judgement" by John Leo

like a security guard chucking crushed pepsi can

through the bars at the bird exhibit

i'm trying to startle something beautiful

 

seven falcons drink a bucket of chum

their beaks are yellow knives

the paint is drying

 

somebody somewhere embalms a squirrel

paints a still-life of anthracite and rotting peaches

just because i grew up here does not mean i'm coming home

"Action at a Distance" by John Leo

- from Jamaal May & Albert Einstein

 

R&D tells us when one photon jiggles,

no matter how distant from its mate,

 

even if they are not jiving, not texting,

hanging on Read like an illiterate,

 

that mate is going to jiggle too. Wild,

how one can be wrapped in a yard of silk &

 

buried in the savagest cavern of Colorado,

if I blast a banging mixtape

 

they're both going to buzz. I don't know

what bonds them together, what quantum

 

threads entangle & which threaten weird

futurepocalypse. But yesterday I found my mouth

 

moving on its own, reciting Iago's poison-

ous minerals, tongue dripping with white

 

hunger. I called my eventual murderer,

we talked for hours, he said the funniest

 

thing, he said there were rockets in the air

again, had I got spun up on that Except-

 

tionalism shit? Had I got a little hungry?

Anyway, he said, I was just thinking of you.

 

& I was doing some reading. Do you ever think

about mom & where she got to? Sometimes

 

when I give the corner man a couple bucks I

can kinda hear her humming Nina Simone.

 

Even when I'm feelin good, if I park with a tire

on the line my spine starts to shiver. Last year

 

I met this hunter from Mozambique. He says everytime he kills

a croc he watches a ghost explode out the thing's head.

 

I wonder if you & I are like that.

Action over distance.

 

I Shakespeare, you Iago.

I rifle, you ghost.

 

Brother, did I ever approach apology? Did I ever

find the chance to speak of that shame I been

 

carrying? I have drowned myself in the sink

every night for years. So when you wake up

 

with the whole damn sea in your mouth,

that's my way of begging you: drink, brother, & forgive.

"Il Ritorno" by John Leo

In Pompeii

you will be looking for a corpse

& find a field of poppies.

This is a kind of aging.

The bodies persist

in a warehouse, slaves

& others, spines twisted

like whips in cruel syncopation.

 

What ruin can reify the ashen dog

boxed between broken brothel chits

and blackened halves of apricot?

Answer: a hound snout split in agony. & what

of his descendant? Gentle stray

dozing on bath-house tile, waking only

to lap Lemon Ice

from a shredded lunchbag.

How many rats can he crucify

before he too longs for Vesuvio's

toxic benediction?

 

& what of you, my love? To what

do you return?

Which unspent tokens smolder

in the stove of your mouth?

 

I heard one man escaped the eruption,

sprinted his ass up a hill with no time

even to whistle for his dog.

With his back to drowning city & storm of ash,

my man got away. There are certain frequencies

only the young can hear. Maybe he was the first

to catch the keening scream of fate's plate scraping

clean. Lucky or sharp, he got away.

& as if chuckling, the gods launched

a single singing brick.

It crushed his head, I heard.

Like Wile E. Coyote.

Like inheritance.

Like a poppyfield reclaiming tombstones.

 

The poppies are red as a loved boy.

They only bloom for two weeks at a time.

In Italian the man is telling me how lucky

I am. I am waving my hands and saying

okay, okay, no problem. He shakes his head

like a needle turning north. When I get home

I will wash my tablecloths.

I will shake the soot from my loafers

and even if I am still young enough to hear

that frequency only children can catch,

this liquid past released into pitch & whine,

I'll still be waiting for that last loose boulder

to italicize me.

 

                             Maybe

that's what I need to do to grow up.

To rip up thorn & thistle

& boil them to broth. To pour out

a Lemon Ice in mourning for my own dead Rovers.

That boulder's coming either way. May as well

dig up a new song & call it a grave. I can pack a whole

honor of poppies behind these teeth. Take me home.