Spring 2012, Volume 12

Poetry by Doug Anderson

Remembering Szymborska

There are no saints, no great men.
We all shit and weep, and the imagined perfection
of supermen has inflicted most of the evil in the world.
You lived through two sets of tyrants
and somehow managed to keep your heart whole.
Give me the semi–precious stone and not the diamond.
The oyster not the pearl.  Give me
the garnet of flawed love and the agate of madness. 
Set in platinum the obsidian tear, and in silver
the rose quartz spire of longing. Give me
the face beneath the mask, the one we show our beloved.
I love you just like you are, with the afterbirth
of perpetual becoming clinging to your skin.
And in gold?  Soul groping for its other in the dark.

The Surrealist Channel

The woman with the eye for a nipple sitting on the low branch of the Boab tree
has nothing on the smoking corpse dismembered in a Kabul tea shop.
A smiling news announcer looks like she’s been blow–brushed in spite of real time
and the crawl line about the gangrene in King Herod’s testicles
beneath school children writing letters to the troops upstages any bouquet of lizards.
The child whore’s tiara adjusted by her pimp trumps the burning prophet
rising from a chocolate rabbit or the fish growing from the deacon’s nose.
The naked woman with her hair on fire walking slowly through the dream house
is trivial beside white phosphorous blooming over Gaza.
Let us shift our chairs so we won’t see the severed heads tumbling in the windows.
That the pastor with his voodoo dolls and needles invokes a hurricane on New Orleans
trumps any saints in raindrops, any hand extending from a cloud to heal us whole.

Occam wrote, The simplest  explanation is true
as in, If the lights are off in your neighbor's house
it means nobody’s home.
But I say, What about the naked woman
in high heels leading a prize bull
through the dark halls by a garland of flowers?


Someone sprayed a dollar sign on the old dog’s body,
the one who sits by Efren’s headless body.

Across the road Lourdes slips her raincoat, shows her body
to Gonzalo heading north with frozen fish.

Gonzalo can’t stop and talk to anybody–
what’s inside the fish is a kind of gold.

Someone throws a rock but the old dog stays by Efren’s body,
sniffs the air and then lies down and crosses paws.

Two days the dog has been by Efren’s body.
Efren, whose head stuck on a stake thirty feet away.

Lourdes finds a buyer for her young body,
brown nipples and burnt honey skin.

She tucks the raincoat round her body,
disappears into the black Mercedes going south.

The dog that sits with Efren’s darkening body
sleeps all night long beside the putrifaction.

Next day they find Lourdes’s cut up body
out in the field where others lay.

A truck comes by to pick up Efren’s body.
Masked soldiers heave him in the back,

go back for the head.  Somebody
lifts it by the hair and makes a joke.

When they are gone the dog sniffs the stain of Efren’s body
then lies down again within the absence.

In the field two women with heavy bodies
and masks to hide their red faces

lift up and carry Lourdes’s body.
One weeps as they put her in the rusty car’s back seat.

In El Paso lawyer Finley eases mind and body
sucking up a line of coke with a hundred dollar bill.

The dog that sat by Efren’s body
now wanders back into Juárez,

its scrawny, stick–shanked body
jumping in and out of garbage cans

until he finds a hat that once topped Efren’s body
and in the shade lays down his mangy head.





BIO: Doug Anderson’s memoir, Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, The Sixties, And a Journey of Self-Discovery was published by W.W. Norton in 2009His book of poetry, The Moon Reflected Fire, won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award in 1995; and his book, Blues for Unemployed Secret Police, a grant from the Eric Matthew King Fund of The Academy of American Poets.  His work has appeared in many literary journals including The Virginia Quarterly Review, Field, Ploughshares, The Southern Review and The Massachusetts ReviewHe has received fellowships and grants from The National Endowment for the Arts, The Massachusetts Cultural Council and other funding organizations.  In addition to poetry and creative nonfiction he has written plays, screenplays and journalism.  He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.  In May, he will become poet in residence at Fort Juniper, the former home of the poet Robert Francis.