"Estrella," "Psychopomp," and "Digging"


That kid shows up in jeans and t-shirt
panther-walking Normal Heights
dreaming Pedro Paramo and Macario
in a cool theater chapel in the desert
between Adams Avenue stucco homes
church bells ringing in the canyon
cat demons lurking in the courtyard
crazy apartment  manager in the alleyway
screaming , “I’ll burn the place down!
I’ll burn it all to the ground!”




I am traveling with my uncle
down this old road falling apart
with potholes and chunked out gravel
an owl watches from the woods
the granite hills burn like buildings
of western civilization in meltdown
as heat waves sweep over the prairie
and somewhere over there he says
is the foundation of the homestead
and a headstone for Percy Wellington
soldier ghosts appear out of nowhere
my uncle is an old soldier too
they’ve come to take him the rest of the way
because this is where I leave off
you fought the good fight I say
they gather ‘round him like clouds
as storm winds roll and lightning strikes
and I return to the land of the living

—for Halvor Legrand Cole




I am digging my way through plateau clay
pounding with an iron bar and pick axe
lifting shovelfuls of rattling rock and pebble earth
alone out here except for Tony the neighbor
who works nights and will rise at two
and come over in his bathrobe and smoking
a cigarette to see if I’ve made any progress
or maybe old Joan will bring her shopping cart
looking for scraps of wood to burn
and I’ll warn her back and say not today Joan
because she must have stepped on a board
with a nail in it since I saw one bloody footprint
going back to her house down the block
I’ll dig through the afternoon
I have nowhere to go and nothing else to do
Paul Harvey telling the rest of the story
the old ones still lingering in the debris
and I’ll dig down as earth changes colors
and sky becomes a bright dime overhead
digging through years of evidence
train stations and apartment rooms
head colds and children and divorce
degrees and jobs and overwhelming debt
regime change and reruns and lightning storms
my hands growing old and bones breaking down
the blood dry and flaking and blowing away
with old Joan and Tony there at the gate
as I pay my way in with my dime of sky
to lie down and breathe and see it all
mind’s eye rising through the hole I dug



Douglas Cole

Douglas Cole has published four poetry collections and a novella, and hiswork has appeared in anthologies such as Best New Writing, Bully Anthology, and Coming Off The Line as well as journals such as The Chicago Review, The Mid-American Review, Pinyon Review, Slipstream, The Galway Review, Owen Wister, Red Rock Review, and Texas Review. More is available online in The Adirondack Review, Ithaca Lit, Talking Writing, as well as recorded stories in Bound Off and The Baltimore Review. He received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry; the Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House; and First Prize in the “Picture Worth 500 Words” from Tattoo Highway. More at douglastcole.com


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, April 5, 2018 - 22:59