Spring 2021, Volume 30

Poetry by Christopher Buckley

The Philosophy Professor Retires

You’re free 
                   to walk the beach
the wind’s discarded thoughts,
as the existential sands.
                                     No further explications
of the beginning
                          or logical end required, though
you unpacked syllogisms
                                    piece by piece,
as if differentiating
                            particles from waves
                                                         of light . . .
as if it would matter to their lives. . . .

Out the window,
                              an implication of rain
the ontological trees
                              which you never looked beyond,
gusts insisting
                     we’re all foundlings
                                                beneath the grey
no matter how absolute the knowledge
                                                          we think
we’ve acquired.
                       Light continues to escape the invisible
paradigms of stars . . .
                                irony, like the whitecaps cresting
the swells.
                For any empirical purposes
                                                      you can recall,
joy was spread so thin
                                that hardly anyone
                                                           was admitted
to the hypothesis . . .
                              just a small subscript of coral and
amber clouds over Italy
                                  in Tiepolo’s rococo skies                                        
arguing the case. . . .

                                You have a bungalow,
branches of tangerines
                                like lost sparks of inspiration
against the grey. . . .
                              The evening star’s not really a star,
and, despite a sneaking intuition,
                                                you look nothing
like the stick figures
                             kids chalked along the curb. . . .
You’re left with
                      Albert Camus & Co.
                                                   who doubted
any blueprint for this life—
                                     a good deal of rummaging
around in tilted berets,
                                 cloudy Pernods café to café,
to reach contentment for a while.

The gulls appear to have a manifest purpose
                                                              about the bins,
but in the impoverishments
                                        of a beige hat and coat,
you barely notice against
                                   the wind-break cabanas,
                                                                     the dry
palm fronds on the sides . . .
                                         here’s a sand dollar
to shake for an echo
                             of the sky, for any residual
                  You might as well
                                            have always been
this old,
            this covered with sea dust
                                                 a heart never fully

My Father, Late '50s

My father liked a coffee shop,
a place where, in his business best—
camel hair sport coat, cufflinks,
Florsheim Imperials, knit tie,
slacks from Silverwoods—
he could waste his time
drawing attention to himself
as a minor prince of the republic
of commerce.  He’d tap
his college ring on the edge
of the Formica counter
in time with Montovani
or 101 Strings slushing through
the Muzak . . . he liked a place
where refills were free—
as they should be in America—
where he felt like a CEO
leaving a 35¢ tip for his hamburger
with thousand island dressing. . . .

The few times I went along,
no Coca Cola or dessert for me,
no white bread as he knew,
absolutely, what was best
for me not to have as I gazed
up at the lemon meringue
in the mirrored pie displays
angled toward us from the wall.

For someone with a B.A.
in Radio & Communications
he rarely spoke about anything
beyond selling commercial time,
dressing well, and keeping
the commies out.  Each night
he headed back to work,
to broadcast Sinatra,
June Christy, and the Five Star
Final news, or so he said. . . .

And if my mother and I
dropped in one afternoon
to find his office empty, 
I knew where he would be . . .
in that coffee shop where
they knew him, like us,
for who he appeared to be.




BIO: Christopher Buckley’s recent books are AGNOSTIC, Lynx House Press, 2019, and The Pre-Eternity of the World, Stephen F. Austin State Univ. Press 2021. He has recently edited: The Long Embrace: Contemporary Poets on the Long Poems of Philip Levine, Lynx House Press, 2020; and NAMING THE LOST: THE FRESNO POETS—Interviews & Essays, Stephen F. Austin State Univ. Press, 2021.