Three Poems by Jim Maughn

[what talking doesn’t prove and when]

what talking doesn’t prove and when this next symptom
skips transmission dry tongue palms sweaty and stuck
out of shape as if to say wait or come here wring
a new year in or drive the old out with stick and bottle
now’s a dainty and derelict thing a kiss for
an excuse my earliest fantasies involved landscapes
butterflies and sages a seam stitched between portraits
portals of wisteria oaks choked by streamers of spanish
moss a steep climb to the ridgeline rimmed with irises
hound’s tongue and coralroot buckbrush sweet and sick-
smelling like junior-high perfume or babyshit forget-me
-nots borage : a sign the ground’s recently disturbed

that’s a reason to walk like this fingers in each other’s
pockets address books a kind of calendar map or crude
diary if I thought I’d ever call again I’d erase your name
which isn’t to say you meant to hurt me rubbed
the wrong way stubble and smear obscures the page
I’m marked down with that last entry cat’s-ear and wake-
robins your’s a topography my thin crisscrossing line
hardly to be seen nocturnal omissions night of the semi-

formal I stuck out everywhere hatched a badly laid plan
made for the passes regardless of hour or weather

only a snakebite kit and waterskein compass-needle
pencil and certain perishables a body cannot go without

The Sea is a Really Big _____ of Water

Occluded in my tribute :  is a true statement
given what I’m given to
fits of exuberant
this body’s all of that
poetry doesn’t come me
naturally to make more or less me oh my
propensity to stop
everything there were gaps
they were lined
I stayed with the lines
No seal’s body
on saltsoaked sand
No sanddollar no stupid
mystical symbolism
Everything’s altogether
too big without
tendency and I don’t want
to be found there
Whitman is full
of bullshit American poetry
hasn’t got rid of

this wanting to seed in
stead of cede
to find myself
To make poetry save       me
even to be
abyss is too much myself
Too much of this tiny being
That's something yet: Edgar     I nothing am.

first italization: From a poem I wrote in high school
second italization: Heriberto Yepez, Mexican Poet
third italization: that “Neruda” guy, from “Poetry”
fourth italization: Obscure British playwright, from “King Lear”

Gift Economy

When she does this with the coffee, she calls it “rationing the vaccine.” Her back is broad, so the man with the tattooed stain on his chest can’t be sure what she’s doing. He’s making the same joke he makes every night. “You ought to call this place ‘Health Code Violations’!” She manages a smile he can’t see. “So how’ve you been?” he asks. “Still free of lung cancer.” She can hear the wreck in the back of the joint singing to himself. He’s a rocketman, again. The one time she’d asked him he’d told her he was a mason. “Not the kind with the handshakes, though.” he’d said. “I don’t control the planet. That’s a fact.” She puts another cup of coffee in front of each of them, without asking. Just then the door opens. “It’s July!” The figure comes unframed from the doorway. “You have a Santa waving in the window!” he says, slamming both palms down on the bar. “I’ll buy it, what’ya say?” “I’d say we’ve been through this.” she replies, adjusting the pinecone on the all- pinecone Christmas tree.


The chair he can see through the fireplace is empty. It won’t stay like this all night, though. Figures walk back and forth. One of them is smoking. She takes her hand from her mouth as if she’s finally ready to tell the secret she’s kept from him. Perhaps the room’s been on fire all along. Perhaps mother lied about my birthday. I don’t know if I can find another way out. She blows a long plume of smoke, and smiles at the arm she is holding.


The bumperstickers cover every inch of his car. All read the same: I DON’T NEED IDEAS, I HAVE THIS BUMPERSTICKER. He drives like he doesn’t care where he’s going, but that’s the lie. As a student he’d never been prepared, but those days are behind him. He pats the glovebox with his one free hand. “I’m a rocketman.” He whispers. He tosses the Van Morrison cassette into the back seat. He’s a fan, but this is not the night for that. “I’m a rocket, man.”

Jim Maughn