Excerpted from PALE TOWNIE, by Tom Will, via APOCALYPSE CONFIDENTIAL PRESSAvailable now.

Suddenly the meanings change; now they read
My book through false eyelashes; all is said
In judgment; each poem a cold document
Then sobbing witness whose meanings meant
Different things at different times; your eyes three
Beautiful colors whisper back at me
As they judge the eyelashes of my play
Maybe in death or France I’ll find a stay

Please note my eyes in death show signs of hope

When I was twelve and looking for the pope
I’m always twelve; especially on that day
I the youngest monk; the abbot’s fiancé
Was not born yet; but then the papal car
Taught me techniques for drinking at the bar
Alone and looking up and vaguely past
The wall; I the contractor gives the last
But fairest estimate; I the dour dean
The carpenter pencil that kept streets clean
With knife bright eyes as good for cleaning chum
As paring nails; but then the pope has come
And gone; my hope is still not understood
Had he not come how long could I have stood
By now the abbot’s lost it all awhile
But surely he must still think back and smile
From cell to cell; which one did he prefer
The spirit or the wife; which one was her
With launching eyes; and which was just instead
A boat gone laughing off to loch and head

I was almost Frank Stanford at fifteen
I was discerning as running through screen
Doors; I saw him through the twilight headstone’s blur
Read Dickinson then but I didn’t like her
How could I hide away a cassocked jane

How could I read or write if stuck in Maine
Who only had some pork and beans for wars
The townie’s silent film shown before bores
The General speeds me on; beyond debate
The bridge on stilted fire; 6…7…8…
The fire’s crash is pale in black and white
And it enjambed by chance a young fawn’s rite
Who saw the dream accordion in the wood
And saw the dream enjamb his song; still stood
The steam ship whistle lingering still in proof
As Vlad-mir tossed the poets from its roof
So the fawn learned steampipes too could sing
And as the fire cooled his organs ring
You know the rest; you’ve heard a mouth harp call
You’ve seen a wet deck shuffled; seen a hall
Ambush set by It’s Your Life Post-Fame
And Donald O almost forgot your name
You built a house but no one was behind
It when it fell; forgive my townie mind
That pun; like others I just had to know
The feel; crashing your car spending your dough

The phrenology of that travelog
Part jew part ape; I rent from him in fog
That never cleared; a train cries from afar
I never learned its schedule or the star
To sail her by; the fog is like the sea
And we three bobbing lures in it; all three
Of us dead; homeowner her and me; all
Stars flying door to door in the recall
Something else I never learned; lines are light
And shadow; black landlords vote white and white
Landlords vote black; how usura in red
Walked; high heels on the roof; baked Pound his bread
Charged him interest; Stanford too sang loud
In his uncollected works of that same crowd
That captured my youth; and the floating door
Opens for a God; and his leopards floor
The wood with carpet paws and altar sense
And grapevines crawled likes cats along the fence
I ask the fog; when will we be unmasked

Mr. Poem answers any questions asked
Who won this year’s cup; in football of course?
How can he answer all without remorse?
Yet never forget his tranquility?
Who took my photo under the marquee?
Why in death do poems read like inane
Lists? What is the price of futures in grain?
What cures pox in chickens? Gallicism
Rhymes with what? Who framed the photo? Prism
Killed who in the Iliad? What was said?
Who took my scissors to the picture’s head?
And where is the neck from which it once peered?
Answer; in the poem’s fog; disappeared

I love The 39 Steps because that
Was the film best to wed without a chat
Man to woman handcuffed and unafraid
Of the key; as a blackface band played
Jazz you spun to me; the camera’s eye tricked
And free; like knitting needles we both flicked
And stabbed; and on Saturdays we’d go out
Naked and keep our cuffed arms still about
The moor; between us both our clothes dried quick
You’d need binoculars to learn that trick
Another; on Sundays as was the law
We cooked outside; and then you would have saw
Us arm in arm reach through a fire’s black
But were not burned; that shack is not this shack
That foggish moor did not have this fog’s bent
The tan lines gone; the cuffs resized they went
As wedding gifts when we were running late

— Tom Will is the poetry editor of APOCALYPSE CONFIDENTIAL.

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