Poetry | By Tom Paine | Issue 34 (Sept, 2020)

Strawberry Moon

Sitting on the shore at dusk on a stranger’s dock,
the skies and trees fiercer in reflection than above,
I was remembering how one winter day my friend’s
crumpled pants lay broken as a violin on the floor,
and how I felt those pants might just stroll away.
Their owner made me jealous in have living pants.
I knew their owner carried sun in his pocket, and I,
at best then, some moon? I say this with a smile.
The clothes in my closet are hanging less dead today.
A god on a Greek cliff once said there is no death.
You will awaken scared and angry in your own flesh,
and know you have been scared and angry all along.
The best thing is to scream. It is like water on a fire.
It is weird to write about those pants, but the world
is probably wrong at how sure it is about everything,
and to me, there was something about those pants.
I have come a long way since those pants on the floor.
I can tell you this: respect all the strange signposts.
Signposts are way more important than the road.
There was an orchid in bloom leaning over the river;
no one planted it there and I had no role to play.
I ate a wild strawberry I had found in a field earlier,
twirling it first it in my fingers like an orbiting moon.


The Anthology of Poetry

My feet crunched in a threat of dark frozen trees.
Was it winter roses? I was reading “The Last Duchess”.
The Duke killed her as she liked whate’er she looked on,
as tonight I suddenly liked breathing in winter.
She liked looking; I liked breathing. Dukes kill
those who they discover like to breathe and look.
I was brand new tonight to this breath pleasure.
I was alone save the bus driver. The anthology
of poetry lay in my lap and I saw the angry Duke.
He has his dagger at my throat. It was a big night:
I looked down again at she liked whate’er she looked on,
and a curtain was pulled aside, and I saw salmon
fluttering over white eggs in the sand, tasting water.


Tom Paine’s poetry is upcoming or published in more than seventy international journals, including: The Nation, The Moth (Ireland), The Rialto (UK), New Contrast (South Africa), Poetry Salzburg (Austria), Bangalore Review (India), Volt, Vallum (Canada), Paris Lit Up (France), Glasgow Review of Books (Scotland), Blackbox Manifold (Cambridge), Fence, The Common, Epiphany, Green Mountain Review, Galway Review (Ireland), Forklift, Tinderbox, Hunger Mountain, Hotel Amerika, Hobart, Tampa Review and elsewhere.

Stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope, Boston Review, The New England Review, The O. Henry Awards and twice in the Pushcart Prize. His first collection, Scar Vegas (Harcourt), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Pen/Hemingway finalist. A graduate of Princeton and the Columbia MFA program, he is a professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.

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