Jeff Schiff : Poetry : July 2020

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Well, let’s begin with: I wrote all of these poems when living south of the border, far south–as in Guatemala. Hope that legitimizes me. If not, let me say that I taught at McNeese State University for a bit in another life and/or that I spent 20+ winters in Florida.

Nothing Says and other poems

Nothing Says

get thee gone dear stranger
like double-rolled electrified razor wire
hidden by bougainvillea

like the vicious teeth
of ten thousand Shangri-La
and India Quiché bottles

half-buried in Quickset
atop twelve foot compound walls
like steel-cased

foot thick mahogany courtyard doors
like Guatemalan Bull Terriers
bred for certain anarchy

like pump rifles slung
by the habitually unemployed
stationed as guards

outside bakeries and barbershops
like reports of carjackings
on cobbled streets

by citizen security squads
like clouds of bandito gossip
leaking from expat haunts

from online reviews
from gringo transients who have done better
staying back home

Ode to Concrete

Silica limestone indigenous clay
a thousand thousand fossil shells

or bag-humped from flatbeds
from openhanded forklifts
from the trunks

of bottom-out lastminute
on-call delivery sedans

Barrel-rolled on the roadside

through baffling scaffold
Married to rebar
Slurried into compound walls

Snaked into molds
into banquettes and livestock troughs
into baptismal fonts

Slathered as stucco
Stained layered stippled stamped
Rough dressed or tickled into mighty art

Ode to Detours and Barricades

Oh to serve as a traffic volunteer
to control neighborhood throughput
down serpentine lanes

to redirect the zigzag
and pell-mell
of overflow trucks and busses

in search of that perfect shortcut
to kneel with your crew
over cinnamon steam

bowls of atol de elote
in the shade

of hand-poured bollards
cement pyramids

from scrapwood scaffolds
before they are set
before they begin to enrage

the gravel and dust spitters
the headlong hurtlers the nosethumbers
the double skidmark birdflippers