. . . sitting in forgotten chairs . . . Paul Zweig

You dang near pulled my finger off says

my neighbor to her dog

and her dog stares briefly and breaks.

She's recently married to her

second husband, Gerald, the happiness

new and dramatic, but there are pains, or numbnesses,

her whole left side seems half

alive, the cervical area, she

points with her right arm and forefinger

behind her neck, this might be it . . .

Her dog has stopped and stands still

as if straddling two cities.

The insolent white star of his chest.

The love of sitting in forgotten chairs.

The laughter of two people, the

yield, the humility


Not the boredom or the fear,

not the waiting, not the motion

and momentum. Only

the spokelike tender turnings like

a bicycle clicking through time.

The pain situates here

and here, the left holds on to

the right, the dog has

flown to what he imagines

as the final spectra --

where else would one wear a leash

over the shoulder

like a scarf on an airman?


I can hear the even clicking

of a bluejean button as it tumbles

in the clothes dryer in a room

off the kitchen. Is the world

coming to an end? Why ask

such questions if it is not?

The lucid skin, the salt and sorrow.

I am back in childhood.

I see the father leaning over the steaks.

He has his shirt off, is smiling into the lens.

He thinks he will never die.

The stairs in heaven shake their chains.

Smoke rises like always with casual

meandering florets which stick in the eye.

The mother seeks unintended grace.

Unintended? Grace? Seeks?

I have been this child who hid.

Who listens as the button falls.


If you turn away the universe

would sail, everything would

shift. The moment pressing down.

In a few minutes the telephone rings.

The voice says who in the hell

do you think you are.

If I bother to look outside

snow sluices down the street

with great masses of leaves

I haven't raked but I stare

inward and fail to speak

as if I'm on a bus.

The setting spins by.

The dwellings are real.

I am who I think.

From Ghost Notes, by Ralph Burns, published by Oberlin College Press

(http://www.oberlin.edu/~ocpress/). Copyright © 2001 by Ralph Burns. All

rights reserved. Used with permission

Ralph Burns is co-director of creative writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has published six collections of poems: Ghost Notes, which received the Field Poetry Prize, (Oberlin College Press, 2001); Swamp Candles (University of Iowa Press, 1996); Mozart's Starling (1990); Any Given Day (1985); Windy Tuesday Nights (1984); and US (1983).

Ralph Burns has published in many magazines including The Atlantic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, and Field. He has won a number of awards, including the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Great Lakes Colleges Award for the Best First Book in Poetry, and two fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. Next week, we will feature an excerpt from his latest book, Ghost Notes.

If you would like to submit a poem of any length, style, level of experimentation to be considered for Diptera, please send your poem/s, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Attn: Lesha Hurliman
460 Tennessee Street, Suite 200
Memphis, TN 38103.

Electronic submissions may be sent to lhurliman@memphisflyer.com. Please include a short bio. Submissions are not limited to Memphis residents.

DIPTERA is not an online Literary journal but something more like bulletin board, and therefore all rights to the poetry published on DIPTERA are retained by the author. Meaning, the poems published on this site can be submitted to any journal without our notification. We do accept poems that have been previously published as long as we are given a means of obtaining permission to post them on Diptera from that publisher.

\Dip"te*ra\- An extensive order of insects having only two functional wings and two balancers, as the house fly, mosquito, etc. They have a suctorial proboscis, often including two pairs of sharp organs (mandibles and maxill[ae]) with which they pierce the skin of animals. They undergo a complete metamorphosis, their larv[ae] (called maggots) being usually without feet.

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