Rob Talbert



A scene of constant tearing
stares back onto the porch.
Talons enter flesh. Flesh enters mouths.
This happens without mercy.
Without guilt.
I can never leave the apartment
in this exact body,
this precise thought, but not because
of what waits in the trees.
I take shelter in a forest of memory.
The crossed sound of crossed bells
trickles over the land. Police lights
open their eyes.
Everything meets somewhere:
a mouse and a broom, a deer and a car.
I’m here and twelve years old
kissing a girl in church. In the dark streets
of Stratford closing the phone booth door.
In Texas, in a car, my sister
is swarmed by cops. Life is something
merely traded. Explored and given back
like a lover’s body.
Like sand at the beach.
Like a childhood.
The moon possesses a kind of stealth
others reserve for crime. Nailed to all our lives.
It holds on as we hold on, as the blunt weapon
of the world smashes into the future.
A backyard party rolls nearby on loose axles.
From there comes a cry, and a kiss,
a hive of slipped attempts.
The moon listens from so high up
all our whispers make one song.


Double Dog Dare

                      Through the heaps of heavy brush
I step with high knees to the porch.
                       It takes more altitude to get home,
more sky to seep under my shoes
                      for an uneasy balance.
Even this world has a tilt.
                      If I put more space into my walk
then I’ve slightly widened my life,
                      and eventually I may have room
for a Ferris Wheel between the bed
                      and the bathroom sink, where I stagger
before the ritual of work.
                      Bring on all things composed of light
and fire. Night is merely something
                      to crawl into, to expand with yourself
when the day throws in the towel.
                      Somewhere in a stadium a coach
tells her players to keep going.
                      In the dim apartment glow, a man
is tying his shoes. Even now
                      someone has smashed berries
and smeared them into the sky.
                      All I do is own things, but I’m also
the thousand uses people and things
                      make of me, and I shine each purpose
until my skin competes with the moon.
                      The clock, after all, is ticking,
and these are the 3 abandoned acres
                      of a friend now dead. I watch the brush
crumple, blaze and become wild.
                      If you learn to start fires you’ll learn
how much fight you’ve got in you.
                      To all fates, all gods, all demons:
come and get me.


Certainty Without the Word Certainty

A man approaches the bar. This is a sentence.
His movement and desires for rum. Each step
met with a new word, and depending on how many people
watch him is how severe the rain of what to call it.
A man approaches the bar (and creates a storm).
I hold avocados in the market and am rephrased
by other shoppers as a man wishing he’d stayed in Tijuana.
A man approaches the bar (and doesn’t need
this moment explained). Perhaps the shunning
of better language is just another way we are polite
in public, the inaccuracy intentional. And I was like
see that guy? And he was like yeah. And I was like
I bet he’s going through some stuff. I don’t need the word drink
to reach for one, nor lust to be delirious about a woman’s hips,
but perfect and careen and lever that moves the world are fine
substitutions for both. When we rolled around in the night
South Dakota grass, that lost-far-away-girl must solicit
other words for rolling around in the night South Dakota grass.
Her hands a different size than mine, her direction
to wind alternate to my own. The memory is never mindful
of its palace, or place, depending on your affinity for a’s. After all,
if only the right memories and sentences stuck around
our heads would be a Taj Mahal, which was also built
for a lost-far-away-girl. A man approaches the bar
(and I build a palace in my head.) This sentence
is the chameleon’s skin. And I was like man, this guy
must have really been hurt when she died
. And he was like yeah.


River Mind

A river is more than a place to drown
twisting underneath and around highways,
keeping watch on idling cars
heavy with they did them wrong.
You can enter this space but you can’t
survive long. A river throws back what it can.
Pushing lights into their own source.
Sending faces back onto the carnivals
who cast them. Beside the city, between the city,
in cheap postcards of the city,
I watch every stitch of color and body
caught and repelled back into air.
A river becomes 10,000 voices
all chanting no.
The barges press down and the river says no.
Under the full moon’s abusive blade
the river says no. I stare down
from hotel windows or the sides
of dim bridges drunk on low fog.
Perhaps all the reflections, the throwing back,
the infinite rejection isn’t no, but know.
A river language in a river mind.
Know this bar light is green.
No, you need it more than I.
Know your face distorted by boats
and fantastic wind. No, it doesn’t belong
with sticks. Cradle my forgetfulness,
river, return the words I didn’t to hear.
The perfumes I failed to reward.
The lips I missed on the way
to another conversation.
Warp the inaccurate world into a scene
showing me all twists and traps.
I turn back to my steel ecstasy of noise.
Keeping a level head. Where I always
try to run steady, clear and cool.


Rob Talbert has worked in jails, bars, cruise ships, and bookstores and earned his MFA from Virginia Tech University somewhere in between. His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly, American Poetry Review, Boxcar, Inkwell, Keyhole, Ninth Letter, Painted Bride Quarterly, Poet Lore, Southern Poetry Review, Sow’s Ear Review and others. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Award and numerous times for Best New Poets. His first book Jagged Tune is forthcoming from MadHat Press.


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MadHat, Issue 15, Winter 2013-2014