Two Poems by Tom Gengler

The Clinic Squares

They were modern for their day,
one-foot squares of thin-pattern linoleum,
reinforced with embedded asbestos.

The squares were carefully placed on top
of the tiny concrete foundation in fifty-nine,
parallel to the north-south orientation
of the roads to which the building aligned.

Each square joined three more squares
at each corner, something like a family.

When the animal hospital was knocked down
sixty years later the only thing kept
was the concrete slab, left for cars
to park near the new hospital.

The linoleum squares, joined at each corner,
were stripped off and thrown away.

No one remembered the wear patterns,
the unique features that thousands of steps
wore into the mid-century modern floor.

When I parked there a few years ago
the outlines of the squares were still there.

I paused and saw the old layout
rise up like a ghost: the exam table;
the X-ray room; wards one and two;
the supply room and its unforgettable smell;
my dad’s tiny, paneled office—the first
place I saw him sober.


Out East of Town

Out east of town to Jerry’s farm
the May afternoon was quiet enough
to swallow thunderheads.

He was carrying so much more weight
than when I saw him last,
back when I was living
a previous life.

We leaned against
the east fence of his property
but he couldn’t get over the top
of the tight-strung
four-wire barbed wire fence.

He asked me to climb over the points
and go a little ways west—“you see that little
grove of cottonwoods,” he said,
“would you go over there and take a look?”

I gladly agreed and the hot clear sun
accompanied me
to the darkly green vines
coiling up, and up, the trees.

The oily tri-leaves told me
it was poison ivy,
which he couldn’t see.

I looked back and saw Jerry looking at me
on the other side of the fence,
waiting for an answer.


Tom Gengler was born and raised in Oklahoma. He was able to experience the wonderful world of animals with guidance from his veterinarian dad. Living and working in half a dozen American states and a dozen or so foreign countries helped fashion his view of our planet. His degrees are in classics/philosophy (undergraduate) and theology (graduate). Among his favorite poets are Seamus Heaney, Thom Gunn, Lyn Lifshin, Marge Piercy, Annabelle Moseley, Alan Catlin, Simon Perchik and Timothy Steele. He has had poetry published in Progenitor, Blue Collar Review, Exit 13, and The Worcester Review, and forthcoming in Westview and Streetlight.

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