Two Poems

The Alchemist

 Through the frayed curtains.

 Beyond them, the beach town reminds me of the
 back-lot in a Hollywood movie. And the letter sits
 on the desk 45 years old and recently divorced. I
 never ordered the pizza either that's later delivered,
 strapped to a gurney with squeaky wheels. But I
 am the one who dislikes flip-flops and never drinks
 cola. I also recall the last time I shaved
 my father. It was a month after his stroke and he
 was completely helpless. Spittle ran down the right
 side of his chin as thick patches of hair grow out of
 his ears. I trimmed the ear hair. I think of mother
 sometimes too, but he is unable to. Would you mind
 if I change the subject? I forgot what I wanted to
 say. Oh right, and the resort is almost deserted this
 late in the season. And wind blows clouds by at an
 alarming speed. And the only thing I'm sure of is
 that somewhere on this unpredictable planet, an
 elephant will escape from a zoo and head straight
 for a bar where it will eat salted peanuts while
 sitting, with his gray trunk on the table, in the very
 back booth near the restrooms.


Soufflé, Mink Malt, Climbing Pouch-Ward

Some poems can read themselves.

But more often than not, words walk in the woods and
never once stop to turn over a rotten log. Lines
appear snotlike and pale but somehow
know how to crawl. If stanzas had
a mouth they would speak
broken English and
drool when
sleep. Each
metaphor would know
exactly which fire escape
to use and refuse to carry an
umbrella at the first sign of rain.
They would make angels in the wet
snow and think nothing of using hay to
stuff pillowcases. What else? O yeah, ideas
would volunteer to remind listeners that poetic
humor should never be mistaken for a princess phone,
unless it rings. Then sometime later that same
evening, flash bulbs secretly Morse Code the
appropriate signals to a starving galaxy,
living on tiny rations of dark matter.

—Maurice Oliver, Portland, OR