Poetry from Jeff Bagato

A Rattle of Hooves

Teeth betray tongue whenever they can,

biting back twisted words

and forcing some mumbles through

a thin-lipped smile

Security has a tough job

when betrayal comes from within;

those passwords stored under a keyboard

can crumble the cookie without tearing the wrap

Get in the game like teeth

and chew chew chew

when the steak comes early;

any dead cow will do,

run by the fire and chopped

so fine you can’t tell the burger

from the bone; a little salt,

a pinch of cracked black pepper

is all the recipe you need

The cows line up and dance in review:

a cancan kick, a little twerk or a twist,

just enough rattle of hooves

to beat out a fanfare;

the bovine disco is the place to be

after the slaughterhouse

and before the plate;

the chef’s surprise can’t be described on any menu—

the chuck, the ribeye, the rump,

they swing, they swizzle, they prance,

while over the loudspeaker

comes a great noise—

the market’s red roar

and the songs of the blind

Towel Museum

A museum

of hotel towels

plucked off housekeeping

carts, smuggled

across country in luggage,

still clean and folded;

shelved in the house,

row by row

as if vacation

never ended

The Fuel That Silenced Suns

Lit up like a sunflower orgy,

an old tree itself becomes neon,

a thing of light sending terror down

on anyone who footfalls below;

the sidewalk takes precious

real estate where roots should be,

a figment of a pride-worn

civilization that already bears

too much; melted down, that pride’s

an acid dissolving concrete, metal

and glass, all the carapace materials

soft flesh prefers; seeds

are sent out as foot soldiers

to build barriers against

the rising tides, sacrificing

many to save few, but old

wood must survive to teach

and build and seed another day,

enriching earth with fallen leaf

and fallen bough, and renting

space to half the world—those beetles,

ants and birds who move soil

and sky as if every day was a new

discovery, not another chance

to smother, to burn, to break

those miracles and exchange

their shards, their ash for one

second bathed in the toxic rays

of artificial neon suns; that fire

remains cold for all its false light,

and the fuel consumed by hydra mouths

tastes bitter in the backwash

The Backhoe Theory

Anyway you look

the stones could scream;

wind and rain take their toll

on the hardest skin

Weather does not befriend walls

but pushes gently until

an escape is made;

then go the rats, the goats—

the water, the earth follow

more slowly, at their ease,

enjoying freedom all the same

Soon nothing holds up shields

against the sun, beating down

with fists of heat.

These batteries test a city’s will

to survive the stronger trials

made by residential man,

who erodes the life of mountains

as he builds new ones

just to test their strength against a fall

Man the maker remains a beast

using machines to push his weight

against any obstacle he chooses;

he will not go around, but through

with a bore, with a tunnel,

with dynamite, showing nature

how the pupil surpasses the master,

celebrating the temporary joys

of power plays that prove

the weakness of strength alone

The Dead No Longer Know

Ouija has writer’s block

when someone grabs hold

without a thought

or some sick interference

cancels out the other world;

can’t be thinking about pizza and beer

when channelling voices from beyond;

can’t think about getting

that D or that P,

that SUV or BMW

Ouija doesn’t write copy

for admen or CEOs;

you can’t think about politics

or religion or the KKK;

Ouija won’t write hate

for all the bronze horsemen

trotting the USA

There’s a code of conduct

in the spirit world,

having shed the day to day

tribal mind rooted in a past

the dead no longer know


A writer and artist based in San Antonio, Jeff Bagato produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music and glitch video. His published books include Savage Magic (poetry) and Computing Angels (fiction). A blog about his writing and publishing efforts can be found at http://jeffbagato.wordpress.com.

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