"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
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
& 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 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.
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.