ditch,

the poetry that matters

Robert Lietz

Robert Lietz is a professor of English and Creative Writing (fiction and poetry)  at Ohio Northern University. He has published widely in both e-zines and print journals in the U.S. and Canada, including Agni Review, Carolina Quarterly, Epoch, The Georgia Review, The Missouri Review, The Northern American Review, The Ontario Review, Poetry, and Shenandoah.  Seven collections of poems have been published, including Running in Place (L’Epervier Press,). At Park and East Division ( L’Epervier Press,) The Lindbergh Half-century (L’Epervier Press,) The Inheritance (Sandhills Press,) and Storm Service (Basfal Books).  Basfal also published After Business in the West: New and Selected Poems .
Robert Lietz has completed several print and hypertext (hypermedia) collections of poems for publication, including Character in the Works: Twentieth-Century Lives, West of Luna Pier, Spooking in the Ruins, Keeping Touch,  and Eating Asiago & Drinking Beer. 

 

   SPOOKING IN THE RUINS

 
 
    Go ahead, he thinks, relax.  Discover
another way to spend.  Sample
their veins, where conferees confide, working
the pools and caverned babel
of the century, as if the news from galaxies,
the parabolas
of extending stuff, depended on their sales
and the cigars and company.
But nobody popped that journalist.  And nobody,
performing on the slopes,
squeezed stones to shimmerings, expanded stock
as if to entertain the hungry,
achieving some use for noise, for the bleakest spools
found humming in the mounds.
Consider the mint, crossed cups.  Consider
the discourse trifling
as flashing gas ascribes.  Consider the key and signature,
the comporting dreams, and now
this hyperblush, dressed up in rites and alphabets,
these synchronous accounts,
keeping him late with saints, lingering in schooled arias
and on the lengths of instruments,
on which an eye attends, and which the eye gives up,
following the plates of ostrich
and the orbits of desserts.  And this girl, say, drawn
a little off, as lost to the past
as these sloop shapes and dirigibles, a forbidden luxury,
observed from these steep panes,
seeding the rifts and systems flashing in the wastes,
transforming atmospheres,
perfecting the golden lull on august surfaces:  So many
thefts he might believe.  So many minutes
counted off, affecting harmonic interest.  Making the air
behave, and now the air-brushed literature,
a virtual tympani imbuing time, a chording brought to bear
on the gut-strings.  Hadn’t
the moody fellow-business satisfied?  And hadn’t
a town in time withstood, untouched
by the command, a century in time, tables in time
untouched, made bright with baby’s breath
and homely recipes?  So much for the libraries and bells,
and for the names men speak, examining
the ghost-ships, whispering again in travelogues,
feeling the allure of the Mars moon, the rouge
lucidities, as lost, as misattached, in the homecomings
pursued, in homecomings someone like himself
will listen to, hearing them name the light
in what was once particular, that now storms through
     the most indifferent samizdat.








 
         BOTH SIDES NOW
 
                                  1990, ‘91, making a case
                                               against the hate-crimes
 
 
     They drive the grandmothers away,
put their lethal steel and plastics to new uses,
grown men, sleeping out in cars,
dreaming buttons they only have to push
to finish everything, fast-forward
edit centuries, no poetry, no place
for their charged selves, but here, where Beauty
had been said to make retreat,
where hauled sand ends in littered woods
and campsites.
 
 
                       They arm themselves
for news and duplications of old news,
surviving all of it, patrols
with no more pulse to count than bootwork,
peddling their antique arguments,
off-spring of ghosts still grumbling at nightfires,
and cheered by their own smoke,
by their own smiles like found gold,
to put themselves at risk, applauding
themselves as catalogues, body-armor
and night-scopes, seeding the daylight
now with all the confidence to plot,
with all these rites by which
they cozy up to things.
 
 
     Imagine the day-old coffee stands for them,
lunches squeezed and sadly flat.
And these other unlikely hearts, meeting here
along this axis,
the scents of white-wrapped fish, of spiced meats
trailing after them, come now
from shops that start desires for a homeland,
to mind their old and sickly young,
to mind the graves they're given to dig
in other people's countries.
 
 
 
               *
 
 
     You'd think    the gods     might well rescind  
  and     build     new instruments!

 
 
               *
 
 
      And these, who must seem bores
to kids raised up on the new movies,
they speak of stars and stars  -- as if there were
no end to it   -- of Europe factored
as the women braid and bend, stand up
in the same light
that taught the brick what it must suffer,
leaving their kids far-fetched,
charmed by signs and ampersands,
by these remodelings to match
their blocks' refusals
to stand still.
 
 
    You'd think the gods might well.  And --
whispering     -- he whispers
dreams to them, his children idling now
or sleeping out of doors, leaving
these others to such stars, assembling arms
like the particulars of first estate,
and getting the wrong words over with,
the categories of survivors, and
of refugees, beside the smaller of two pools
jewelling a dry country, learning
to lip-sync words as darkness might require,
to count the many trail dead, choose
routes, seen from above, that
seem to make a zigzag, avoiding
the bodies
torn by beasts, that now
will not forget.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 

          WIND TOYS

 

 

     As refugees, fearing the worst from the next order

of police, fled in increasing numbers, leaving behind small

bands of thugs to terrorize "cousins” who stayed to spite

the circumstance, one man continued his composition of a

colorful and literally windy symphony, stringing and nailing

tires, hubcaps, cut-and-shaped sheet-metal, tubular

and geometrically cut plastic shapes in the yard beside his

building, employing his idleness in rearranging and enhancing

the array, crazy maybe, in the eyes of neighbors packed

to leave and subject of the mixed views voiced by those

who risked their lives by staying.

 
 
 
     Tonight would be supper cheese, soup,
grocery wines, conversation between
a curfewed citizen and heat, a lodge-man
happy and at stake, happy
to have
some thing to wish or blow about,
something the light
will not disclose
or specify.
 
     He thinks of the ash in motion --
or     -- seeking
a little sleep    -- of the neighborhoods
transformed
by the neighbors holding score-cards,
tipping
their mugs again, considering
the yield,
the sworn and competing
synergies
/ the     alluring
member-
ships. 
 
     There might be more to meeting perils
than we’d think.  And
more to suppers out, the filtered water
and deep teas,
stretching a tested company, winds
crying among the shingles
and the sideyard lachrymae,
a man
as wrong about the cuts
as he had been
on
appetite.

 
 
     He’ll check the program guides, before
deciding on lights out,
the piano for four hands, ready
for the winds and sleep,
the pinwheels and sheets of blown snow,
the sleet as colorless
as sleet had seemed until he listened,
sounding
the yard array, the nailed caps
and tubes
and sheets of fluted colors, a Fiat
crammed to the last stick,
and changing the ways
men dream,
taking seconds off the clock,
the ways
men rouse themselves
from dreams,
survey the pastels
dawn lays out
among
the ground-
cover.
 
 
 
               *
 
 
 
     Hadn’t the cold moon, full but paling,
set the mood for company,
and the company arrived, incorporal,
the local sons
that played their hearts out
with the meat-squads,
leaving him grey, and under grey,
and watching
the spirits stir -- their nastier
guitars
made loud     among
his
hanging
instruments? 
 
 
 
     And grey maybe, and now the pink flush
underbelly
tincturing winter trees -- and grey
again -- that     seems
to rise up from below, squeezing
out the light, taking
the space between, taking
the air itself,
and bodies, built
for     show
and tell.
 
     As wrong as these, he tells himself,
about the reasons to stay put,
about the literatures corrupted
as subscriptions slipped,
about the nods two shared, making
out of love, opening loaves
and sharing spreads, opening
their lives     -- against    
the most affecting
dissonance.
 
 
     Let the carnations haunt what’s left
of mornings
afterward, the faces haunt him yet,
or this single gull
seen following the line of the canal,
investing its heart
in elements -- reminding a man
of the pork treats,
of the national beers
and native
poetries -- moving the caps
about, the tires
around -- like all the pieces
in the boardgame --
altering the torn grey
by
repositioning the wind-toys
/ and seeing
the strings attached
/ seeing
the tying fail
to     hold
the     likes
in
place.
 






     VOYEUR / SECOND THOUGHTS
 
 
     A familiar enough, imported mercy
over-runs the spot     -- taking the coordinants along
/ the pressed unctions     / scented cloths --
taking the skin with its timed thrusts     -- ending
a morning’s walk     / checking
the machines for messages.  The light on leaves
and the light on power-lines     -- on their own
and further rounds of seeming hurried     -- would still be
coming to some one     / and     someone
wet with travelling     / wet with that terrible ken
/ requiring these tales     -- as if there had been
no time     -- except to practice this    
/ except to know     -- for all the hard
recuperations    -- a few things
counted much. 
 
 
     And so a few things     -- counting     much --
filter through dining rooms and dusks
/ and through assisting temperatures.    If only
to know which tongues     / which     broadcast    
hardbound seed     / amazements     played
on lives with all their juices     /coming to some one --
asking     the usual     what then?    
and     what’s to do     about arousals     / inspiring
the sweets     no less     / the pleasant
tempo with the beverage     / the complaints
of an old woman     being fed on history    
/ seeing how time peels back     /and
the lapped bronzed seams     / the decades-
muted wallpapers     -- frost-bins    
/ frost-vintages    -- and     the masks
peel back     / and     the masks
and     masks     / behind
the     masks     of
everything.
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
         EXPENDABLE
 
 
     Swivelling for chocolates or tap-swill, cutting
to razor-wire, barbs, he gets some point across
about the old days in the country, broad-etched
the more erasures multiply.  Let the Belgrade bosses
search their hearts for surplusses, and
hands, that had the power to choose and entertain,
take up imperatives, proposing the gloves
kids wore and left behind for the next children,
windows dressed for holidays, inviting
the heart again to its crossed lines and literatures,
a heart to reason intimacies, from
the first acquaintance through
subtracted surfaces.
 
 
     He’s hooked and figuring.  He’s rooms made dull
where versions normalize, revising
scripts and reconfiguring mis-stagings, plastics
freshening their grips,
affecting vibrations there, like decades
happeningat the undersides of color,
and there,  within cell walls, as snowlight
stirs, and stirs in the spiralling
grammars of sub-basements,
the proteins tingling, adding
his own     changed face
among the reasons
for surprises.
 
 
     And hadn't he read the likes before -- following
some new and terrible cry of information
/ the zeroes pierced and specimen?  Hadn’t
he understood the sums    
/ the soups were not to be as he expected,
the squads layering fresh tracks,
even this gaze from friends, outstretched
with friends in their subversions,
having so much to tell, and so much
to model from receipts, men
parting with their funds, and no one
satisfied, and no one more
than older afterward, shawled
and travelling, smuggling
the parts     / the
sweet     illegal
beverages, 
  
     regretting the sunrise     stumbling evening
left to them, left humming
in the ghostwear and more ghostly drives? 
Here’s amalgam then    -- and    
misadventure gentrified     -- begun in moonlight
/ in snowlight once, in sound-tracks
such as ends-of-century require     -- and
somebody always being held, somebody
mapping out star-wastes, absorbed
in listening, ladling the peppered broths,
or setting the photon-bone
to all the formal stimuli, and     to
this rush of mercury, this
rush of moonlight now, across
abstracted surfaces,
discovering
the surd-dulled lattice   
lives
could not have
wished
away.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   PARKINSON’S / DEMENTIA
 
 
     She brings the blankets, spread,
the pillow and rolled sheets down
where the futon’s welcoming. two hours
or three to sleep, an ear alert
with listening for her mother, the alarm    
( in case )    for three     / the first
of the night’s love-turns.  And     there,    
in the minutes afterward,
she hears her mother count herself,
counting her ways toward dreams    
or the deep center of the galaxy, able
in some way still to catch the name
of her first child, or the face
of the dead child     she almost sees
in vanishing.  We sleep ourselves,
alone     -- one flight  / two years
/ eight hundred miles between --
counting from each odd inch
the lengths of half a century,
and listening to winds     / to
the radiator’s hiss     / and
to the speech of dreams    
/ when     nothing
lets them out.
 
 
 
 

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