Dustin Hellberg

New Poems From the USA


Floodlights and right angles govern the scene
from the roof above the town’s one park, above people
wearing photos of their faces over their own,
whose movements are just a motion in air,
who are beautiful in this keening peace,
who empty bottle after bottle, their heart
beating an inebriate dance in rarified halls,
each mouth a vote, each breath an exile stalled
between the past and the cold click of teeth,
the church and steeple, the fall and the grace.
And where is that woman I’d have built a house for, of wattles
and mud, except for my kiss of asphalt, except this evening
failing to erase her elemental kisses which dropped like morphine
and manna once, while the moon fell like a leper’s rattle?


Mortal and bewildered we hit the ground,
hoping not to shatter these heads and hands of clay.
If there were just one way to misquote the sky,
or quiet or poverty it can only be with tongue
when the vacuum fills with fire and the blinds are napalm
smeared over this book and this ashtray
where I can talk of sadness in my undershirt
because of the way I would have ravished
you, mortal and bewildered, you with the dirt
beneath your fingernails, whose throat like a psalm
pretended to know me, and lay its raphaeline
arc across my pillow sometimes. But this is not
an issue of faith, of desire postponed or forgot,
for those in this mind of smoke and terrorists’ dreams.


There is a space so expositive, so clear
that we must be careful what we put
in it, which in this way it resembles the boot
my father’s father wore in Korea
filling with blood, the way history fills space,
when it is not sleeping. It does not even seem
to breathe while it is sleeping. Shot and left, he
crawled the miles back, and drank water from a stream
with a helmet he’d found a man’s head in. Season,
take it back in now, little lamp against the dark,
held out at arm’s length against the vespers
of drink in this drug-and-hoodlum-run park
where the cracked-tin lips bleed and whisper
like a seizure… like one… like the… for one final reason.