"Is It Too Soon?," "The Birthing," and "A Chaos of Lust, a Pawned Guitar"

Is It Too Soon?

What if a light shined and no one saw

            Among the company of green parrots
            suspiciously quiet
            which used to be a domestic?
            Corral them all and wings be damned
            come morning they’ll be squawking

What if the old moon grew a Mohawk

            Would you roll out of bed then?
            Put a safety pin in this
            I’m sorry. Is it too soon?
            Or too late to save crumbs for crows?
            They gotta eat too, you know

What if there’s no place left to hide

            What if no one wanted to hide?
            What if the masses demanded exposure?
            Rain be damned. Let it fall
            on the recently clipped, the landed
            on all your commercial and spiritual enticements

What if no tools are found

            The switches are faulty
            home is lost by scratch
            and scrambled feathers
            chicks stand stock still
            in the bare yard

What if the eagle has landed

            There won’t be another egg
            to ooze or fry
            the store’s been pecked to death
            by the freedom fighters’
            final ride

What if the torch is out

            Words read the same back to front
            no one whispers, no one listens
            in the howl wind
            where nothing dreams
            where nothing takes flight

What if the day is dark

            In the blare of spotlights
            sirens and rainbow alerts
            no net is safe
            and every mockingbird silent
            in self censure

What if it’s over

            What an experiment it was!
            But the art of improv is lost
            for drum and fife
            the song of sparrows swamped
            by the sound of goose-step

What if it’s time

            To step up or ship out
            get in or fall down
            flip a bird or fuck yourself
            get orange, get brash, get on board

What if the cuckoo chimes in

            A record thirteen
            and all other ways of looking
            are dangerous, obsolete or broken
            set your clocks back
            two hundred years

What if we can’t see

            It’s going to be great
            again the pigeons panic
            it’s just more drama
            peeps all love that
            close your eyes and open wide



The Birthing

The temptation to subtract oneself
from the imperative of speech
rises like a cur on the full moon
reduced to reflexive sclera
inflamed with acquiescence
after the panting stops
before the screams begin.

As forgotten seeds begin to burst
new strategies stir under torn clouds
where dead ends rot through to a view
(a hole a shimmer in the gaps) the rest
is music.

The story begins each time
a baby crying in its crib
on the way to a dry-eyed island
where it’s I and Thou with every wave
of the pointing hand scattering
sparrows across a sky never so large
never so empty above a shining sea.



A Chaos of Lust, a Pawned Guitar
(Remembering Lee Teich)

A chaos of lust
a pawned guitar
bones shattered
not shaken
bloody nose in rain
beat token for a train
history now
cold stove for Liptons
the dead can’t owe
a cavity of want

Bells together
with ears between
not a sweet gig
2 lumbering jacks
swilling Smirnoff
a guy ramming files
into guitar strings
windup toy walking
over a broken neck
laid flat on lap

We meet here
dogs & grasshoppers
snuffing LP black
soles dangling
needle & table
flashing rat teeth
over a black grind
Céline’s journey
and Beckett’s final

My way
over the sand
combing over
days lives & deaths
climbs drifts & withers
over city pavement
where you & I
10,000 times
kicked coins
into the night

Assaults on silence
your forte
always talking
never listening
always a con
seldom a friend
thief, liar, addict
made by your mother
ruined my meeting
with Leroy Jenkins

Brooke & her cats
keel for your boat
she went to work
& we smoked her pot
spun records all day
then escaped
her & each other
but never ourselves
with all the drugs
never ourselves

Lee, your face
looms large in dreams
still taking
what was given
wasting grace
until it was gone
fucking friends
in the worst way
the dead will walk
until the living awake

Queries in darkness
skulls as handles
a ride roaring
into the ever-void
blow your chances
break what’s fixed
Sun Ra’s Atlantis
caught scratched
and hung beaten
on a keyless door

A player spent
& no more turns
in a city of millions
out of fakes to fail
ink to drive
deliberate wrong turns
inside at last
a sink stain become
your epitaph

Is your lesson
where not to tread
pick up to play
after you listen
scream not whisper
don’t follow me!
pluck your moment
don’t hold a mirror
chaos of lust lost
upon a guitar



Mark Kerstetter

Mark Kerstetter steals time away from restoring an old house in Florida to write poems and make art out of wood salvaged from demolition sites. His poems have appeared in Evergreen Review, Jerry Jazz Musician, Connotation Press and other journals. Check out MarkTKerstetter.wordpress.com.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, December 13, 2016 - 21:28