Role of a Lifetime
When a stately home bursts into flames,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and he is I. – Pablo Neruda, “We Are Many”
When I was a skinny, wired kid
I scratched my fantasy roles on onionskin
and slipped them in a low drawer.
Now, it’s my movie and I’ve cast myself
as the fat man who lifts a pith helmet
to sop his sweat in a colonial backwater
but the wheezing senator from a small state
with a coveted vote, in seersucker and a string tie,
looks out from the mirror and offers,
“Nothing for free.”
Like a scalper
standing on hard ground
I hold up a fistful of tickets
printed with nothing but dots and squiggles
and in the other hand rests
a tumbler of liquid, amber and acrid.
September’s crickets persist in their argument
for balance: the cicadas are quiescent
as is the turntable where Dizzy Gillespie used to spin.
I slip on the stones in the stream
but my compass still aims north.
From the briars comes the itching hiss:
Back to the mines, the plush raw underground
but I’ve become the cat
that wrote the article about the canary
then balled up and swallowed
those lined yellow sheets when it didn’t win a prize;
fingers of ink branching in my gut
and urging what I resist –
to go down into the cavern with its reptile belly walls
and bring up the bony tools
and blood-dyed props of a story
that cuts like a fault
deep below my feet.
New Year After New Year
In the first few minutes
there’s only knowing something
is different and it isn’t good
and then, here a drawer left open,
there an empty wall, broken glass
under a window
and you realize you’ve been robbed.
Slowly an inventory amasses:
mostly the insignificant and replaceable
but also a grandfather’s watch
with its sunny face and jaunty fob,
mother’s locket, the erotic iris
your friend rendered in pastels – its amber
and gold and umber
hermaphroditic splendor taken
probably for the frame.
And that is when a new year
nudges the corpse of the old one
onto the fire escape, off the landing
and down to the sidewalk, littered
with the shredded tissues of poppers
and punchy messages – greetings from another time
with its fragrance of youthful skin,
lilac and frankincense,
its hothouse pliancy and ruddy, hot pistol,
the saltwater vibraphone hum
sent across the water from a distant island.
That is when the burglary
is complete, the heirloom fenced.
A new digit clacks across the wire
and the night train rolls out
past bluffs and palisades, through shadowed valleys,
its passengers nodding like drooping roses.
David P. Kozinski has two full-length books of poems, both from Kelsay Books. The original manuscript of I Hear It the Way I Want It to Be (2022) was a finalist for the Inlandia (California) Institute’s Hillary Gravendyke Prize. Tripping Over Memorial Day was published in 2017. His chapbook, Loopholes, won the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. Kozinski is the Resident Poet at Rockwood Park and Museum in New Castle County, Delaware. He was the 2018 Delaware Division of the Arts Established Professional Poetry Fellow. Publications forthcoming in North of Oxford and Eunoia Review.