SPOTLIGHT: SLAP poetry by Rustin Larson


It’s not my fault we’re out
of money. The star charts,
celestial navigation, I
understand nothing. Here
is another delivery of cake.
The forbidden kingdom, China’s
workers, sacred voices.
American poetry died in 1957.
There is nothing to celebrate.
Hug the moon and smile like
a virgin. The plans of the
universe are like smoke. The
desert becomes golden with
sunlight and water. I remember
sitting in an art quarry
waiting for John Ashbery to read.
Just where they were all going
afterward, and who exactly
they were, I now speculate
with bias and stereotypes.
You know, and anyway, there
used to be a great place to
buy strawberry pie after almost
anything. People think they’ve
got me pegged. If you are
patient and know where to
look, you could do research.
You’d probably learn very little.
Nowadays, I lie in bed with
Caroline and we watch old
movies. It takes us back to
what isn’t now exactly.

Four Steps

Four steps, please. Four steps
onto the train’s platform
in the middle of the night.

Four steps before you trip
and fall down the basement.
Four steps into the bower

of wild roses. Four steps in fever
into your mother’s arms
in the cool kitchen of your childhood. Four steps

holding the handle
of your mother’s coffin. Four steps
down the cruel hallways

of your high school. Four steps
away from your enemy
with the sack of nails and the slingshot.

Four steps
up the ramp to the airplane
that will take you far, far away.

Four steps toward the minister
who is there to marry the two
of you.

Four steps from the deep end
of the municipal pool. Four steps
into the August night with the bugs

calling. Four steps into the capsule
that will take you to the top of the arch. Four
steps to the microphone. Four

steps to the voting booth. Four
steps to your bed where you will
make love. Four

steps to the mirror where you
see your gray hair. Four
steps outside the Capitol. Four

steps on the Appalachian Trail
in late March. Four steps
away from the clock tower. Four

steps from all the doors you called home.


Bruno Statad ran the amusement
on 14th back in 1964. He had
a frozen custard stand and, with his wife, operated
a small Ferris wheel and
carousel. It was in a gravel
pull-off just outside the
drive-in, and they did all
right for a while. His wife sang in her language:

The warrior’s muse holds a moon warm
as summer sand. The stars
swirl with gifts taken away.

The mountain village is called
Dawn. The bread ovens glow.
Morning travels down a river
from other mountains far away.


All events are free and open
to the public. All events require
a payment that isn’t money. All
events take several hours of your
life. Your shoes will swim
in the color of these events,
and your heart will power
the accordion for their
hymns. These events cannot
be heard by dogs, but purebred
wolves will howl in agony.
These events will haunt you
forever. You will hear them
in radio static and on the
lips of passing strangers. These
events will change you into
a person you don’t even know.
They will tie weird pieces of
fabric to your neck, and make you
thirst for wine you cannot afford.


by love bitter things are made sweet

by sweet things are the bitter made to love

by the bitter are the sweet things thrown into contrast

and when love rests the snows slide above

by the absence of love does the pomegranate fill with seeds

by sweetness does the juice flood around the core

so this is how love is more

in its sleep beneath the lid of a frozen lake

when the snow falls it is for its own sake

and the tree in the cavern of death

blossoms and bears fruit


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