Robert Eastwood

Robert Eastwood began writing poetry and fiction in college, and has kept at it because of the buzz it gives him.  He's appeared in many journals, online and in print, and has had several brushes by a Pushcart. His poetry has won various prizes, including the Berkeley Poets' Dinner Grand Prize. His chap books, The Welkin Gate, Over Plainsong, Night of the Moth are by Small Poetry Press. 

 

Two Poems (June, 2012. Issue 37.)

The Other

That hot afternoon when I was twelve,
when boredom took me to the creek and culvert
sunk beneath the highway,
where antique tortoises crawled in their mossy world,
I picked the cold-lidded shells up one by one
to crack them like nuts against the rocks.

I don't remember if my supper tasted differently,
or how I slept, only oil that surfaced later
when the recollection, the horror, appeared in parallax.

I've heard of wild horses found bullet-riddled,
drying on a Nevada slope,
a vagrant's head broken by a bat.
I've known the power.
I've felt the heave out, quick––
when indulgence sops itself in scatter-shot ejaculate.

But later, you rub your lurid hands,
inflamed unutterably.
Scrub hard for its sake, that in you emerges.

When news tells of jingoish beheadings,
or of a black man dragged
until his face, his head unfastens,
or you see, motherfucker, smirching a wall,
you suffer. It has saved you
for a cold perch called disgust.

You know what thin skin covers,
calling self the pretty one––
that which plays or shits in someone else's bed.
You've held the hand in its frenzy-swirl.
It will dance this dance once, at least, in each of us.

Neighbor Sam

I suppose liking or disliking is a sign
of allegiance to something. Maybe prejudice.
We had a strange, neighborhood man
who, on spring afternoons, with skinny legs
below his Speedos, strode like a caddy up our hill
as if pacing out the yardage to a difficult green,
and, in the morning, early, when the sun
flanked roofs with a get-going glow,
my neighbor kept that rapid cadence
as mothers' SUVs skimmed him too fast,
anxious to make it to the school for parking
or to avoid the tardy bell. At corners my neighbor
used an elastic band he'd worn like a cummerbund
and stretched it around the street-sign poles
to exercise his pecs and stringy arms––
using an extravagant show of force––so that his hair
sprung out like a dog's hackles, making a shaggy halo.
All this, oblivious of the gawking kids on their way
to squirm in sedentary rows. Down the street,
his place had skirts of gaudy tile around a patch
of dichondra he'd lay upon for hours, elbow-propped,
picking out dandelions and shoots of spurge,
so absorbed you'd think the weeds were nuggets.
Last month, as I passed with my dog,
I saw that my neighbor dozed on the lawn,
his plastic bucket tipped on its side
and a little portable radio vibrated
with Limbaugh's rant. As always, our flag
draped down his porch as if to dry a mildew,
and the morning Wall Street Journal yellowed
in the driveway. I kept the dog off the holy lawn.
Though I never spoke to him, I disliked him.
Maybe it was the fuck you self-interest I saw,
his indifference to all that seemed balanced.
When I came on his picture today in the back-page
columns for dates, praise, names, out-dated photos,
and forever pledges of allegiance,
I learned my neighbor's name was Sam,
and he was born on the fourth of July.

The Legendary