In g emil reutter’s Farmers, Queens, Trains, and Clowns we are treated to a panorama of a fractured Americana. The singer/seer/poet weaves the celebratory and the lament in his masterful “Philadelphia.” The ghost of a railway station is conjured along with the past majesty of derelict neighborhoods. Gut-wrenching abandonment abounds—turkey buzzards on rooftops, icy furnaces, vacant-eyed buildings, carp that float sideways next to legless frogs. Laced through the graffiti-scarred souls who wander these poems, the moon’s splendor shines as does the richness of family and the poet’s compassion. reutter blesses us with a raw poetry of savage beauty like his bees encased in a silken coffin. His acute powers of observation witness the spider’s captive brown butterfly as well as what is ensnared in the vibrating strands of a divided America. We are left with the haunting image of Orion frozen with his back to the earth as if an entire civilization has been discarded..
—-Stephanie Dickinson, author of The Emily Fables and Big-Headed Anna Imagines Herself
Red, white, and blue-collar—g emil reutter champions the past glory of America, finding triumph in his avid, dead-on descriptions. Suicide, cancer, abandoned tracks, those down-at-the-heels and down on their luck—these are the subjects this poet describes with boundless compassion, flawless cadence, and drum-tight metaphors. Here is a distinctive, authentic, and powerful voice. And beautiful. He makes rust sing..
-– Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, Author of Party Everywhere
Under the Pilings
Separating the homes of the neighborhood
was a swath of a field. Just wide enough for
a football or baseball game. In the middle of
the swath was a tall piling as a ladder to the sky.
Underneath we created makeshift diamonds in
the summer and grids in the autumn. When the
day wore on and boredom hit we would climb
the ladder to the sky and while most only made
it up two stories, Jim and Tommy always made
it to the top, stood with arms raised between
insulators and wires as if they were kings of the
sun. So now, an old man, I return to the swath of
a field between the homes of my old stomping
grounds. There are no ballfields under the piling
and no kids running around the field. The ladder
to the sky now posted with no trespass signs, no
kids climbing, most likely they are more cautious
then we were and probably smarter.
Winter Doldrums on Sabbatical
It is the last Sunday of January in a winter
that has been brutally cold. After a week of
worry you call to say the birds have returned
to the feeders. A purple finch, mourning dove
sparrows are feeding again. On schedule the
thaw has arrived, temperature has risen to 55
degrees, the sun lights up the cityscape. My
window is cracked just a bit, fresh air enters
catches the burning incense, swirls about the
place. Sidewalks on the avenue are busy with
foot traffic, parks are full of escapes from
January doldrums. Metal rakes sing like rusty
banjoes as dull colored leaves are picked up
from lawns. The thaw has injected energy into
all. In a few days February will arrive as will the
snow and ice, frigid temperatures. Birds puff up
in their nests, people turn up the heat, bundle in
blankets awaiting uncertain March.
It was a place to go in times of trouble
drink away your haunts, failures. Pint
of beer, shot of bourbon send a round
to my beer buddies who always sent
one back. Tip the bartender who made
sure I didn’t send a drink to the wrong
gal. Chain smoke, chain drink, pint, shot
send another round out. Soon there were
fifteen markers on the bar by my beer.
Hit the head, slide on the floor, grateful
avoided a fall. At closing the door man
would chant, Time to go, out I went lucky
to get home, sat on the couch, mumbled
into the darkness.
She came to this bar, for it was his bar
her eyeliner was thick, her ruddy skin
covered by foundation, her straw like
hair dyed blond. Thin frame covered
in skin tight dress, her boney knees
almost knocked. She took her place
at the bar and watched him hold
court at the corner. White Zifendel
after White Zifendel then gin after
gin, she fixed her gaze upon him.
He would point and laugh as would
his court until she stood, yelled at
him in slurred words. He grabbed
the girl next to him and walked to
the door, she followed yelling I love
you. The door slammed shut, she
didn’t notice the puddle on the floor
between her legs.