Three Poems by Tom C. Hunley

My Guardian Angle And Other Cosmic Typos

is the title of my unfinished poem about abandonment.

When Lou Reed and Johnny Ramone first met, Lou advised Johnny
to sell his favorite guitar to buy a better one, so Johnny
dismissed Lou as a snob.

In middle school, my future wife agreed to be secret friends
with a more popular girl whom she embarrassed.

My eldest son loves his cat, Sarah, who hides
under the bed whenever he enters the room.

I’m saying I love my wife and kids
but often hide from them in the basement.

I prefer sports movies to sports,
and what does that say about me?

I watch sports movies in my basement
while diffusing essential oils, which calm me down.

I’m saying lavender, sandalwood, frankincense,
and blends with names like mood boost and brain aid.

I wisecrack when nervous or upset.
I hate that about myself,
though on balance, I love myself,
or try to.

I’m saying I believe in God but doubt myself.

At church people pray for me.
At poetry conferences, poets mine my pain for images.
Not sure which is worse.

^An example of one of my wisecracks.

Lou Reed’s parents paid for electric shocks
to fry the gay out of him when he was a teen.

I’m saying my wife and I love our three sons.

That my wife and I love our adopted daughter
but turned her over to state guardianship
after she said she loves the man who hurt her
and that she hates us.

My fear of flying leapt off my fear of bridges
is another example of one of my wisecracks.

Basho wrote a haiku about an abandoned child
but didn’t rescue the child, so I wrote this haiku:

          Basho’s sad haiku
               About a child abandoned—
          Youtuber films a stickup.

I’m saying that we’ve all seen YouTube videos by bystanders who could have
been heroes but Basho got there first.

That I mourned when Norm McDonald died and when Lou Reed died.

“As a child, I laughed a lot…now it seems I cry a lot”
is a lyric by Marc Bolan, whom I revere
as much as I revere Lou Reed.

My eldest son stocks shelves for a living
and is the best there is at it.

My other sons work as a tennis instructor for Parks & Rec
and a shift leader at Little Caesar’s, respectively.

I’m saying I love all of my kids
but my daughter
is like the poem about abandonment
that I never finished.


In 2021, The Naked Baby From The Nirvana Album Cover, Now Thirty, Sues The Remaining Band Members & Courtney Love For Showing The Whole World His Baby Penis
          “Don’t Try.”
          ―inscription on Charles Bukowski’s tombstone

I wanted to be a drummer who wanted
to be a drum but I always felt more
like the broken string that ruined the song
& scared off the Sub Pop execs.
Wound up tight until I snapped.
Nostalgia, you dirty window.
Look, my first grunge show, Seattle 1991,
hairy head & skinny arms taking a dive
from the stage at The Off Ramp
deciding then & there not to try
any more lest I be called poser.

At University of Washington I wrote
essays, but I found that too trying.
Also tiring. My kids have never
heard the word poser but if one studies
too much the others call him a try-hard.
It would be a bummer to become a bum
& I wish I could go back and mosh
at the Moore Theater to live Nirvana
but first I’d shout into the mic that 2021 smells
like Teen Spirit mixed with the unwashable
funk of old age & sounds like the moment

after the encore & before the applause.
Time is a wind that will pick your pocket
especially if you’re a screaming tree
in a garden of sound, a peaceful battlefield
after the casualties on one side rise
from their bodies and help up the casualties
on the other side like sweaty moshers
clad in black concert tees lifting
fallen fellow moshers in the pit.
None can remember why they started
shooting & they’d hug if they still had bodies.

Naked baby in that pool, I’d trade places.
You too, thirty-year-old with your hand out.
And Kurt, twenty-seven years after
you joined the twenty-seven club,
wouldn’t you trade places with me?

Skinny Dipping
(after Ocean Vuong)

My god, my body
has changed as if my old place of business
has been shuttered.
Thank you, Lord, for my body,
how it resembles a car that resembles
a coffin with wheels,
dented but not yet totaled.
My body a drowned treasure chest
picked clean by pirates. Thank you,
Gravity, for keeping me grounded,
but just once I want to be a helium balloon.
To be naked with no shame
no matter how many people point.
There’s an American Association for Nude Recreation
but I’m not a joiner. I don’t have any friends
that would be into skinny dipping
and maybe that’s what’s missing.
But I won’t go skinny dipping alone.
I’ll be a stream that’s made peace with the ocean.

I want to sing into Van Gogh’s severed ear
and let him paint me nude and blue,
my face unfinished, my body a temporary address
in a town you never hear about except
when fugitive criminals get tracked down there.
I’ll learn to swim in the body I have.
I promise I was young once, but too self-conscious
to dance. I should have danced, music or no music.
Now I’m the lake I dog-paddle in.
Now my body is a doorway into a room on fire.
Now my body is a framed painting that my children colored over.
Sometimes I lie in my bed and dream that my body is new.
Sometimes I lie in my bed and dream of never waking.
Sometimes I write aubades that want to be gunshots.
Sometimes I think there should be more of me.
Someone in every group of skinny dippers thinks
it’s funny to hide other people’s clothes.
Someone always takes pictures.
The cops always arrive but never join in.


Tom C. Hunley has published poems in Oregon East, The Oracle, and previously in One Art. In 2023, one of his poems is slated to be reprinted in Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft (Pearson Education) ed. Janet Burroway, fifth edition.