Sisters of the Mask – A poem.

Paint clings better to paper mache.

A strange bird’s feathers
float between her mask’s furrowed eyes.
Her eyes, the only humanity visible,
and they are dark and creased. Overflowing.
The gold paint glimmers how she cannot.
The tired smile is carved into the mask,
not her.

Her skin below the mask hesitates,
drifts out of the fabric of her costume.
Bright and faded, it stretches,
and folds over her like an envelope
without enough postage.

When she changes her face,
she turns away and her dark hair curtains,
and creeps down her back.

The mask has become her;
the paper hides her hollow.

JKolasch

Sprites – A poem.

Distant bombs shift the dust
smothering everything.
Fingerprints and footprints cover
bookshelves, open photo albums
where tiny handprints cover a baby boy’s
face, smearing his smile through
the dust, eyes pale blue and slightly yellow.
Covering the woman on the beach, polka
dot bikini as grey as her smile.
Prints on the books,
through the pages of Moby Dick,
Great Expectations, and The Great
Gatsby
. Footprints have patrolled
back and forth and back and forth
across the mantle. It’s hard to tell
what kind of wood, but it shines maroon
where the dust has been paced away.

Like our trail through snow, tramped down
by booted feet, step in time, clatter
of buckles and bullets and cans
of food and guns slung. Or ash
from our fire keeping coats and boots
dry, heating the tin of baked beans
and pork to fill stomachs
lined with ash from bombed
bodies and buildings in London.

JKolasch

Squirrel Ballet – A poem.

Tonight, the moon is a plastic bag
caught in the grasping willow
where the squirrels sit, eating their winter-stored
Planter’s peanuts and almonds. Casting
shells into the oil-rainbow puddle and divining
that the broken colors mean
Frank will get laid tonight, but only
if he can manage to tame his bushy tail
because she likes her men neat and clean.
Which is strange for a squirrel.
But Frank tries to conquer the fur
with both paws and his teeth because he
is incredibly horny after a winter of watching
pay-per-view porn through a stranger’s window.

Frank repels down the tree,
trying to hide the nervous chattering
amidst cheers from his friends. This time,
he’ll get Suzanne in the oak across
the way. Straightening his bowtie,
he darts into the road to win his girl.

Car. And the squirrels scurry, momentarily
losing their minds and running back and forth
and back and forth across the road before
flying up the willow and cussing so loud
they sound like they are shivering
the way their teeth chatter. There is a soft squelch
but the cars keep driving, offering a silent apology
through the whisk, whisk of Frank’s tail brushing the road
where it clings, dangerously and gracefully,
to the all-weather tread of the tire.

A small, red stained bowtie flutters
against the oak’s trunk, where Suzanne
sits in silence.

JKolasch

Sloth – A poem.

I watch YouTube—
instead of watching
painted skies, trying to mimic
brushstroke for stroke
the finger whorls of gods
smearing burning clouds across
and down into lakes.

Instead—
people dress like cows,
screaming at fainting goats.

I watch YouTube—
instead of watching
my dog chase butterflies
in his sleep. Feet flicking,
kicking as he smiles
through black and white fields
where tiny flower-drinking
insects are the only color
he can see.

Instead—
girls paint themselves
with words, and flash flesh
better, faster, stronger.

I watch YouTube—
instead of watching
the canary talking to me.
Gasping and choking,
his yellow feathers fading
as he dies, a byproduct
of sensitivity.

Instead—
words are wrenched
and retooled, hammered into
lips to be sung again.

I watch YouTube—
instead of watching
the last breath escape my lungs,
ectoplasm like smoke, photographed
in darkness, and probably fake.
But I’ll never know.

Instead—
twin rainbows swim overhead,
quivering voice filming—
oh my god, oh my god.

JKolasch

Placeholder – A poem.

And I will always wonder why
the table is set in such a particular way
with the knife facing in, back to the spoon,
as if the spoon was caught dipping
into another bowl of soup¬—
a simple tomato. But the knife is upset
because there is no grilled cheese to slice
in half and share, dipping into the red
of the bowl, mirroring the red of the sun
dipping into the blue of the ocean.

But I am alone, like the fork on the left.
The wide divide of the white plate—
yet untouched by crumbs of slightly burned
bread and the dots of red—
dribbled tomato soup. A meal where the fork remains
sterile and able to be placed in the drawer.
But because it is out, the fork will be washed,
and rinsed, and dried before being tossed
to the darkness of the cutlery drawers.

Even with the other forks, it will never
see the other utensils. And while the others remain
content to just be with other forks,
I am aware of the isolation—
the knife and spoon, while in partitions of their own,
will be together on the table.
Across the wide divide of the white plate,
the fork will remain alone—
save the brief slice of the knife between its tines—
a vicious and violent violation before, again, being alone.
The knife, still angry, will turn its back on the spoon.

But they remain together—
in misery and misunderstanding.
For how could a knife ever talk to a spoon?

JKolasch

Wind on the Bay – A poem.

When she dances
it’s nothing special.

Her hair willows,
weeping as she dips,
feet arching.

Praying hands knife
to heaven. The prayer
is unheard.

It’s a dance
she performs everyday—
and no one sees.
No one sees her bending
back, muscles taut,
steel cables holding her.
Without those
she collapses.

Becomes nothing—
shapeless.

Like a goddess she spans,
dipping to the ocean
but not touching.

JKolasch

So I Had Another Drink – A poem.

I don’t remember his name.
He probably didn’t have one,
but he always had a drink.
He cradled the glass between his fingers,
swirled himself into the amber liquid
before letting it calm
and taking a deliberate sip.

I knew it was deliberate.
He would lift the glass, and pause—
touching his lips to the rim.
His eyes would close
and I could feel the breath he took.
He never swallowed immediately.
It would sit in his mouth,
the corners of his eyes tired
and moist.

When I went to talk,
he didn’t speak a word.
Perhaps he couldn’t, or wouldn’t.
He would only point
with his eyes into the bottom
of the glass.

JKolasch

Natural Selection – A poem.

Drive away from broken plates
and broken words. Away from angry
hands fueled by god knows what.

Rubber burns, brakes and voices
scream as hands crank the wheel
to avoid the deer. Hidden by weather—
not quite snow, but not quite real.
Headlights dance, crack and splinter
into tiny fractals that litter the road
with diamonds and blood.
Blood and fur and antlers.

Air bag pillows, the first
explosion that’s good.
Bruised, but walk away.
Avert eyes from the dark
and glinting road.

JKolasch

Fallen – A poem.

He stands alone on the corner.
Shaggy brown hair hangs
and tangles with the tatters of his clothes.
The colors have left him, so he blends
with the fog that has its fingers
wrapped in everything.

I barely see him, a ghost
in front of a window. But our
eyes meet. His eyes pierce the fog
and burrow into mine—
time slows, my speedometer
needle stuck on thirty-seven.
He glows, like St. Elmo’s fire,
I blink and it’s broken.
Those eyes held mine
for a fraction of eternity.

Something unsaid stuck
in my throat. Look back—
lost in the fog and the traffic.

But there, a glimmer.

JKolasch

First Time Haunting – A poem.

Sleeping, must you lie that way?
Stiff and sweating?

The living trope.
It’s rather unnerving.
Are you supposed to resemble
the body’s starched suit?
You swish like a striding
business man’s slacks,
like the sheets of a hospital.

You’ve become even more
inanimate in life,
exuding the whiff of formaldehyde jars
with your exit,
or of dusty chapels.

You will never be satisfying
while you remain alive.

Only that one night,
the knife trembling against your wrist,
tasting blood, did you tease me,
and then, typically,

you stopped short.
(I sigh angrily.)

I was throwing knives in your
kitchen for months. To remind you.

The smell of flowing blood
still clings to you:
stinking odor of breath
and soul—

spurned phantoms.

JKolasch

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