Poetry- Dana St Mary

the flag keeper

he walks slowly to the place
with that solemnity
that cadavers bring, and
leans the heavy ladder
on the mast-like pole.

a tilted head and
gooseflesh show
that today is windless,
grey, and

the climb is short, just
twelve foot or so.

the turnbuckle holds the night
in its iron hand,
and unwinding the stiffened line
makes his fingers

he looks out at the highway.
all the kindly folks
are speeding home, or not.

to work?
to hide?
to smile and nod?
to cry and clasp?

the lanes are full.
the blacktop,

he looks up at his flag,
limp against the dawn,
this cloth.

he lowers the thing, just bit by bit,
to not overshoot

the halfway


the flag tender’s walk, part two

again he shuffles,
drudges, to his task,
the president did not have time
to even ask;

his tears will always wet
his tired cheek,
and solace
is not anything he seeks.

the rain will hide his crying
from the guests,
but rain will fill
and swallow up, his chest.

it is an honor, owned
to raise the flag,
this limp and lifeless,
tone-deaf filthy rag,

but come next monday,
up he’ll haul her high,
and watch the blood dry quickly,
in the sky.

the flag tender is nothing,
not a thing,
and children shouldn’t crumple,

they should sing.

flag tender, redux

he tilts his blooming head back
in this miserably perfect day
peeking out from under
the brim of his ballcap

that old flag pole

they won’t let you just toss one up
these days
making this here, one of
the tallest in portland

this here

she needs a coat of paint
and the fly end could be whip-stitched
maybe a washing
who knows

he looks up
on this beautiful

and wonders how many kids
it takes
to get the official decree
to lower the bleeding rag

half way again.

over the fence


over the back fence,
doug is dying.

he’s got my dad’s name,
and my dad is dying too-
just not as fast as doug is,
over the back fence.

he left his porch light on for
a whole month
last year.

i was afraid to walk around
to his street, only
to find him decomposing
in his recliner,
or broken in the shower,
or heart-burst
by the shed,

over the back fence.

doug doesn’t get much company,
just the guy from church
who mows the yard,
and weeds the garden.

i guess he would have
turned off the light
if he had found doug,
back there.
over that fence.

in doug’s yard


over the north fence hides
jack’s vodka tonic nose,
and his liquor lawnmower cut job,
and his rattling trailer,
and his don’t throw your frisby
in my yard,

over the north fence.


the south fence
is falling over,
andycap steve wants to know
when we will be ready
to spend our money,
and time,
letting him decide
how to rebuild it properly.

his wife is a pack of cigarettes
and romance novels,
with great casserole

we love steve and ester,
over the south fence.


the east fence hasn’t been
built yet.
so fong, sometimes lang,
doesn’t have any trouble
making it to the front door
with those spring rolls,
and fried rice bowls
that they insist on bringing us
every time
i bring them over

a nice crisp

the butt-crack of dawn

i rise in the light
that is barely light
and mostly dark
or dusk

i rise

i stare at the inside of a cat box
and measure out Splenda
hoping to sweeten my

i stare

i drop my soap, twice
washing my old man feet
and barely recognizing
my balls

i drop

a hint to my wife
but she is sleeping
and never hears

because the butt-crack of dawn
is showing

and i like toast.

abigail always did make good bread

compared to my wife
i feel very insignificant
she washes bodies and
cleanses our very selves
inexorably day in and
day out she never stops
to wonder what may be her
reward, reward, is there ever

a reward?

compared to my wife i
feel very cheap like
a pocket full of tin
nickels when my girl has
mercury dimes and
she doesn’t even want
to spend them she
just jingles their silver
coats while i

count by fives
and yearn.

compared to my wife i am
a coward and not just
in the manner of she
died to make a family but
more like she rises every
day without rancor knowing
there will be no

thank you’s.

i read your poem (for mike rollain)

i read your poem on the side of
a mountain, not the side
necessarily, but kinda
half way up
and kinda

half way down.

i read your poem twice
at the lake, not at the lake
necessarily, but
on the lake, more
specifically, i
read it


i think i will read your poem
a third time
if only
i can find an



you would say

you were
all kinds of phosphorus
and sulfur
or caustic soda with
a gunpowder tongue
some such chemistry as
makes pretty flames and


i say you are milk of magnesium
and chalk, or
just plain old
lead, but not
any heat no
fire no

i am iron without
a magnet

you are oxygen

never give your poems gas money


i sent this poem to the store to
buy some eggs and corn on the cob
and banana bread with
walnuts and dates, but

the damn thing never came back

now i hafta
another one.


i sent this poem out to check
the raccoon trap to see
if we caught that goddamn
skunk yet

i hope we didn’t, because

i hate how slow them fuckers die
even when you put
a pellet
straight in their eye.


i sent this poem to the pond

i think they must have stocked it
because it’s not home yet

and my tackle box
is missing.

she said i

she said i loved that painting
more than i loved her.
but i only loved the painting
because it was of


i had painted every curve
of her meticulous body
with the care
that she failed to receive
in person.

the shower curtain, the porcelain tub
the tiny window
letting in morning light
that dazzled her wet, brown hair.

the shining curve of her
dripping leg.
that particular eye
under her proud forehead.

and the metal rod
around the claw foot basin.

she said i loved that painting
more than i loved her
when she envied the hours
that i stared
a brush in my teeth
her colors on my thumb
and wine at my feet
in the bay window room
of my place.

i finally burned it
in the back yard
in a fifty gallon drum
with everclear
and an acetylene torch.

i loved that painting
more than i did her.

every poem needs a paterfamilias, maybe (sharon’s poem)

every poem
is a child i send out into the world
to be raised by hillbillies, and convicts,
and church-ladies in hats and hairpins.

i would write that previous image,
but it takes a mother
to write something like that.

every poem is another nest i’m building
on a wobbly, narrow beam,
in a barn full of abandoned attempts
at home building, as practiced

by a father.

every poem
is a bit of homework that
i will never take the time
to make my child



my son’s face crumbles
the wet sand leaving no prints
of the tiny gigantic
heart he has
that only wants to touch

my time
my hand
my bent back to call a horse

or a tool on the workbench
standing on his little

tiny voices in my head
all his
echoing the sweetness
of a child’s question
and his face crumbles

the wet sand
leaving only my
angry foot prints
where the fine ocean
of a pure heart
had washed itself flat
and perfect

with the power to wipe
smooth again

his face crumbles
into clumpy tears and
a screwed up face
the tiny hands shake
the purest skin not ever
needing angry tears
or frightened cries

and the sand

where only steps of wisdom
and joy
and loving


loving scratches and ripples
loving ripples awash with
oceans of patience
where only sun should warm
his cooling plaster

my yells
wash away
these prints

and the sand

About the contributor

Poetry from emerging poet, Dana St Mary

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