Monday, September 30, 2013

Alan Catlin- Three Poems

Kelly Flores with Caspar the Ghost, Halloween,
HELP Shelter, South Bronx, NY 1993
after Mary Ellen Mark

In this impersonal place,
spare, undecorated like a
rent-by-the-hour, twenty
bucks an hour, clean sheets
and towels extra, maids always
at your service, room; the child
seems so small, smaller than
she actually is, perched on a
dresser table near the sound off
picture on, TV, dressed as a
clown,  a player in a children's opera,
punch 'n judy play, already a
displaced person lacking clear
direction, looking puzzled, lost,
listening to whispered secrets,
encoded advice from Casper the
Friendly Ghost, emissary from
another, more forgiving world.

Higher Than Kites, Higher Than the Moon

Faulkner would have recognized
these guys as next door neighbors
to the Snopes, refugees from a
field study on the cause, effect
and harm caused by rampant inbreeding,
people who went on family affairs in
a pickup that looked as if it had spent
the War Years, the Punic War Years,
buried in a pile of compost and mud,
flatbed rusting through to the main
frame, muffler long ago left along side
the hardened ruts of what passed for
main roads to Nowhere, a place where
they and their kind lived, carrying a
homemade coffin with them wherever
they went that carried the remains of
a significant other inside, extra
pre-cuts for what fell out over 'Shine
and roadkill feasts on holidays, home
comings and funerals, tipping over
out houses on the way home for fun,
higher than kites, higher than the moon. 

The Napier Family 1989
after Shelby Lee Adams

Their family portrait shows only
three of sixteen offspring, the boys
who survived into their twenties for
a family shoot, not bothering with
formalities like shirts, all the better
to show off their grotesque scars:
a belly so grotesquely disfigured,
it is difficult to imagine how it got
that way, a growth maybe removed
by anesthetized-with-alcohol home
surgery, cauterized with boiling water
or maybe through acts of violence
like the ones that removed so many of
their kin from the picture: the son shot
by the father, a daughter poisoned by
relatives, another son shot by a brother,
others by strangers, law enforcement
agents, all these local legends story
tellers dwell on, concentrating on
the more amusing aspects of their drunken
stunts: on the son who has his address
tattooed on his knuckles and hand so
the sheriffs will know whose people
he belongs to, where to drop him off
when the sentence is done or sooner,
if the verdict was death, the alcohol
black out permanent and the next binge
begun, though it is the son with a home-
styled haircut who thrusts his head into
the shot at the last moment that attracts
the most attention, a wicked smile on his
profiled face, a knife scar prominent
stretching all the way from his lip the length
of his jaw tells all that you will ever need
to know about the family lineage; the ones
gone and the few who remain.

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