"Are you disappointed? Let's see. Perhaps at first you feel a bit lost, as when a person appears who, from the name, you identified with a certain face, and you try to make the features you are seeing tally with those you had in mind, and it won't work."
- Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler
Joe Betz is an Associate Professor of English at Ivy Tech and produces electronic music under the name Knuckled Fruit. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His first chapbook, SOOT, will be published in 2022 with Finishing Line Press.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Joe, what poems have you brought for us today?
Fists dense with nickel rolls,
two-dollar punches, we
swing heavy through new fog
built with sugar-sick breath.
Dangerous, flexing over every
reflective surface, new gods birthed
by mistimed pullouts, we preen. Pleasure
is the hook dense as cold molasses
through the interstice of two ribs,
coughed. // These performative
combos construct Sunday, affect worlds
built of ripped linoleum skin
stitched and buffed on the fifteenth
of next month, 32nd of
never // If you miss, if
you miss, if you miss //
stuttered prophecies of retribution
hiss between laughs serious as butter
absent the refrigerator, as chapped
lips’ preemptive bleeding when smiles
stretch seasonal lessons regarding overindulgence
// sting. We watch each punch
wind up like promise,
trading false haymakers in sync,
inexhaustible, mini pumpjacks lapping oil.
AGAINST THE WIND
Small as deer ticks sequestered in ear hair
undiscovered through November,
as blood in dimples of wedding bands
sitting on bathroom sinks. How the wind
makes me. Coyote curling above bean hills,
alfalfa seed. Still the cardinal’s red body
held in a cat’s maw below the porch. Sunset.
Tonight I’ll believe in good things.
Subtle, the scent nudging past leaf
and stalk, dirt dry as knuckles washed
with gasoline, they tempted patience,
husk down flashing white
and yellow seeds, skin swelling
almost phosphorescent under sun
loud as the bullet to end a cow
turning itself in a barbwire vice.
I’d picked each ear heavy above my head
beading dew grasshoppers sipped
before spinning off in a buzz of legs,
my hands heavy with sleep
punch-drunk as wasps escaping Stroh’s cans
filling a basket on my back. Coyotes turned
in hollow logs near the river.
Silence punctuated each step left.
Later no cars would stop. The sign
on which I’d written SALE
fell over in a semi’s wake.
I dreamt of butter and salt, the good
hard plates, and counted corn snakes
writing my name across the highway.
When the farmer stopped
asking where I’d grown that corn
I felt the sun pull water from my neck,
knew my legs were faster than his mouth.
You've been listening to the poetry of Joe Betz on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.