Winter 2017 — THE POTOMAC

Four Poems

Alan Catlin


Spontaneous Siamese Twins

               after Diane Arbus

They are the carnival clowns,
lost thrill seekers dressed for being
dragged down a strip of life; she wearing
pedal pushers four sizes too small,
clipped together at the waist, blue butterfly
tattoos rising above each stretch lined hip,
set free to seek sagging braless breasts,
her love bitten uncovered neck bruised,
bloodlines ascending into a tangle of unwashed
hair, she smiles for the camera, for her lover boy,
exposing a mouth of missing teeth,
fever sores, lesions.
Linked arm and arm, she walks with her man,
punch drunk and crazy, he wearing his sleeveless
denim jacket, his smiling death head stained
by wash and wear motor oils, homemade black
tattoos proclaim: Too Bad To Live,
Let It All Hang Out, Let It Bleed;
their backs hunched forward they make their
way into the night, time junkies in search of a hit.


Beatrice Abbott's Life at the Top

From the steel shell, New York is a topographical
map, animated by living road markers, burning
garbage and leaves, the sound of traffic a kind
of demented music, punctuated by explosive jack
hammering, the wrecking balls swing, elevated trains
rattling tormented rails, black noise above a crosscut sky;
on the skeletal walkways hard hats walk the line,
half pints of rotgut stuffed in back pockets for easy
access, another strapped to the top of black lunch boxes
or a spike added to black death brewed coffee,
restorative fluids to maintain a sense of balance
easily skewed by sudden winds, a regrettable change
in plans, no one was informed, sorry to say,
thousands of feet above anything else manmade,
mistakes are magnified, and men are working,
straddling the beams or strolling the heights,
human relics moving the skyline, surgically altering
the landscape, adding rivets to the Colossus joints,
the Modern Prometheus of New York.


Boy holding shard of glass before face

               after R.E. Meatyard

When a mirror breaks
where do all the memories,

all the images it once
contained, go?

Are they set free to wander?
or is their liberation a kind of

punishment for trusting
such an inconstancy
as glass?

Only the boy holding a shard
of glass before his face


Reno 1949

               after Lisette Model

Dark sunglasses do not betray what she
might be feeling, the way an application
of too much lipstick does.
She is not in town for the races or the tables,
though she bets on horses, plays the slots,
rolls the dice, but whether she wins or loses
it makes no difference, it is the playing,
the killing of time, that matters.
Smoking cigarettes at the edge of an in–
ground pool, she turns the pages of High
Society magazines, but retains nothing of
what she reads, fills ashtrays with half–
smoked cigarettes, the imprint of her lipstick
a blood red smear, a memorial, to all the time
spent establishing her residency requirement here.
Night times are no different, only the places
where she maintains her home base of inactivity
are changed; the strength of her libations increased
so that by full moonrise, the new light astonishes,
she is a wild woman of the dunes in flimsy silk
nightwear, the sand filtering down all about her.

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