A Cosmic Hammer of Second Sunday Poetry
for the Non-Year 2020

While we await a future reopening, here are poems by Alejo Rovira Goldner, Christine Jordan, Toti O’Brien, Radomir Luza, Tarumi Takagi Inouye and Patricia Murphy

Alejo Rovira Goldner

Corpses at Evening
Bodybuilders smelled the deadest.
Remembering a passion for summer and snorkeling
their eyes awoke to be stabbed with syringes.
Our governor, finding a goat on his couch,
opened the earth with a sword
revealing a slew of greasers bent
on conquest of our deathcare system.

At the request of Pharaoh, the Duke of Bavaria
had his sea lions robed and sat them on the Port Authority.
At the request of Pharaoh, the Duke of Bavaria
crowned himself Lord Protector of our Tri-State.
Corpses erupted everywhere: six-day-old corpses,
fourteen-day-old corpses, dilf and milf corpses
liberal and conservative corpses making popping sounds
because they remembered summer
and still craved facelifts and corrections.

Albino roaches feast on art nouveau tattoos.
High-schooler and collegian corpses are the sorriest.
The body’s natural air-conditioning is broken,
they say a star above has it in for us.

Enter Errol Iguana—minor now major prophet—
pointing at Pharaoh’s men in pineapple hats:
“Your beds shall be filled with stones
you shall cry out for your mothers as flies rise
from swamps, hunt you in their millions.”

Exit Errol Iguana: He endured five days
of oriental death and three of regular death.
There are corpses made of sleep
but you’ll find him stored in his icebox
among corpses made of waiting.

Christine Jordan

Me n Jane
If you were, say
65 years old or
older, could you
bonk out a rhythm
360 with your
old Capezios for
hours on end a
half story high
small one? Small
ones, small ones
aren’t they called
closed thirds? We,
called your ageless
students, find tapping
a trio, a math problem
solved, our work shown.
You can get us to maxi
ford the creeks of our
bulging waters way
past our footlight years.
It is a shuffling and
an irish and a palonk
stepping in the right direction,
us tapping into our futures.

For the friends and brave soles in Jane Napier’s Wed. noon tap class
March 9, 2011

the life of trees
is no longer a professional question for me
I don’t care about what you plant in your yard
I was paid to care and solve every problem
from holes in your orange trees’ foliage to
the wrong color of your hydrangea blooms to
yes plan your whole damn landscape for free
I did it every hour on the hour for five and two years
Treeland occupied my heart broke my fingernails
burned my neck and soaked my boots but that’s
the life of trees

I am officially retired now I can sit beneath the
Koelreuteria bipinata ‘Elegans’ and watch it
sprout and spawn its long tricked out bracts
right before my very eyes I can probably pull
every single erratic unwanted weed and scoop up
every dry leaf fallen from the rain tree as we shuffle
at ground level the dog poop never has a chance to
languish long as I am on it in a flash if anything
languishes droops crisps or drops it has no chance to
languish I know what my new job is and I am right on it

Eternal Champion 
I have chosen to rejoin
the battle with my body
the scene of conflict?
A ballet studio. The spoils?
Nothing more than satisfaction at
attempting this art again
at age forty-three.
Day one finds me dressing:
first layer, red half body, second layer,
grey allbody suit of a security blanket
with bare feet, these in the
fairest yellow socks and soft
pink leather, last layer,
a very thin, grey bib, a smock,
a friend, offhanded old garment,
cinched with another old friend
so used one couldn’t call it elastic.
All told, I feel like one of the pigeons
on the ledge right outside the courtyard
window, mime of me,
gripping their ledge with red shoes
as I grip my steady, anchoring barre,
my grey breast similar and
full of flesh. One difference:
How suited to their purpose my
line of beauties at the window
are to clasp and unclasp their toes
and move like on a rope and
stare at us all, dark beads and blunt beaks
pressed into their heads, lost
in their necks, lost in their feather torsos.

They flutter fantastic when
our wings brush in unison
beaten along by a perfect chord.
Another instrument suited to
its purpose. But I am satisfied
to twist and cajole tendons
outward again and make my torso
function for the purpose of perfection.
I am satisfied, though not
as accomplished as the Pigeon
Corps de Ballet planted in the empty
window boxes of the Coronet Theatre.

Toti O’Brien

Dancers hold their bodies like candles
like altars decorated with clothes
old ladies have embroidered
perhaps by candlelight in the evening
or in the dead of noon
burned by exhaustion
curtain closed against the sunbeams.

Dancers hold their bodies like prayers
rising up like cigarette smoke
to gods sleeping, hushed by layers of clouds.
They hold their heads like crowns
of flowers floating on water
their smiles disembodied like dentures
made of milk and mother of pearl.

They wear perfect mannerisms
sliding down their sleeves
until the tip of their fingers
or else coiled around their reptilian necks.
Their nails scratch the ether
like nibs piercing pinholes
through which strange scents are strewn.

Tang of lemony sweat
barbarous perfumes and a purple note
of adrenaline, aromatic oils of fatigue
bloody saltiness of swallowed fear.
Underneath their clothes
they wear skin-colored braces.
Dancers wear braces tight.

(first published in The Hamilton Stone Review)

She botched the entrance twice, the substitute lead
duly paid, quite a pro, superiorly trained
one who could look at a score, unscramble it cold.
The entrance was abrupt, in the second measure.
The entrance came as a slap in the face in the second
measure, third beat. And she saw it
open eyes, throat open, heart and lungs wide open.
She observed, almost admired it, she embraced it
her whole being prepared to mouth it
gulp it then spit it out but she couldn't.
She swallowed instead.
He turned towards her, the conductor
one she hadn’t met before.
Instead of going on he turned and he lifted an eyebrow.
A split second. That gaze she’d never forget.
Frozen blade, laser sizzling her on the spot.
Only two bars in the famous conductor
took the liberty of starting over
gave the poor clumsy thing
an undeserved second chance.
Now she knew where the entrance was.
Two words, third and fourth beat
of the second measure, easy to pronounce
a prayer, a chant, what was this piece
about? Someone told her, of course
when hours ago she received the call
concert dress always spick-and-span in the closet.
Now she knew where she should sing
the soprano sub, like an angel
like crystal rain from above
and she breathed on time
and yet something choked her
and she missed as one skids on black ice
as one skips a step and then rolls
down a flight of stairs and lands on her back.
This time the conductor went on.
She jumped in as if mounting a wild
unsaddled nightmare. She sung through.
She bowed at the applause.
As she wanders backstage, seeking the green room
the score flickers behind eyelids half-close.
The diagram of the second bar
lines her corneas still. The words cruelly
eluding her tongue were perdona nos.
She removes make-up in front of the mirror
thoughts unfocused, brains leaking lassitude.
She muses about the two most reflective
things she can think of, self-portrait and suicide.
Leaning back on her chair, she imagines
a stroboscopic lamp, a globe, but concave.
Perhaps she is inside it.
Sphere of faceted shine, sparkling beehive.
She can feel the smoothness of glass
its cool, soothing surface
and the lethal sharpness of shards.

(first published in The Voices Project)

Joan of Arc
And if myth is the thing you eat for breakfast
stale bread soaked in milk
plastic cup of faded green

And if fair is the flip side of what burns under your sternum
when you feel you have been wronged
but how, you can’t tell

In the cellar, where you have been shut
in order to meditate on your sins
you sip bitter swags of angst and revolt

If unfair has nothing to do with justice or rights
only with a knot in your throat
that causes your gagging


Suddenly, as rage’s eating your chest
you are climbing a ladder
your wrist ringed by the sweaty grip of mute fingers

Fair has nothing to do with kind
like your missing mother
or with blond and light-skinned

Only with a noise beyond the smothering hush
of your blindfold, a crowd witnessing
your blame and your shame

Unaware of the vain, vague rebellion
making you into their laughing stock
their thrill


Their attraction that is just a distraction
to relieve endless tedium
and the vacancy of gods


Dusty wind pricks the skin of your nape
the pink strip between ear and scalp
freshly shaven

Itchy like the brush
you stroke on the back
of your darling mare

In the stable, that’s where you belong
or else in the kitchen
but the hand you can’t see holds you tighter


In a somnambulic daze
you sense smoke
and the heat of a distant summer

(Sun scorching your freckled cheeks
in an open field
remote innocence)

Your heart throbs
while your jailer crushes your bones
as if squeezing lymph out of a twig

You are the kindling
to your own holocaust
Slowly, you become myth

(first published in Gyroscope)

Radomir Luza

And Marlon Brando, James Dean and Montgomery
Clift opened the floodgates,
And Lenny Bruce drowned in them.

Where Chevrolets, Buicks and Ford pick-ups find God.
And God finds us weeping under interstate
overpasses between swigs.
In an America too cold to care and too indifferent
to change.
Looking for tranquility or just quiet in abandoned
bathroom stalls and overused needles.

Where New York City blows its nose on disaffection
and disillusionment.
Like an avalanche on a paralyzed climber.

Where ecstasy has replaced cocaine as the mature

Where America dons a disguise too ugly for
Halloween and too pure for Christmas.

Where a truck driver like Elvis Presley changed the
world.  By not listening to it.

Where Jesus speaks every Sunday morning.  And is
mute the rest of the week.

Where Joshua, Vladimir, Rashamba and Mary
jog around Central Park every Sunday morning

Where Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr.,
Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong
and Marvin Gaye lived, struggled and died.

Where boys dare not be girls.

And girls dare not be more than 125.

Where peer pressure is always a step ahead of His Pressure.

Where intellectuals, artists and scientists are
nothing more than freaks at somebody else’s dinner

Where liberals and conservative find only black
and white.
When they should be looking for gray.

Where gay men and women who love each other
are called dykes, faggots, queers and cunts.

Where beards meet beards.
Lipstick meets lipstick,
hands cup breasts

And fingers grip chests 24/7

And sex still has a price.

Where the idea of me and you has been replaced by me.

Where fame lasts fifteen minutes
and blow jobs fifteen seconds.

Where funding has replaced art
and Dick and Jane can’t find a house under half
a mil.

Where yes means no and
Courtney Love is another name for pain.

Where Buddha and Allah and Jesus drink from the
same water fountain in Crown Heights.

Where love means sex and sex means nothing.

Where girls reading People and Us and In Touch
realize that their souls belong in the garbage and
their tits in the wind.

Where polar opposites are often polar opposites.

Where the Sunset Strip has become a cartoon.

Where a white guy won’t ever see BB King in concert
and a black guy Bruce Springsteen.

Where you and me and every person in their
house should take the TV set and ram a dictionary
through it.

Then look up imagination.

Where cell phones should be outlawed everywhere.

Where slam poets should be taught that there is
more to the art of poetry than the same three words
and that annoying sing-songy delivery.

Where forests and trees and meadows and plains
should be preserved for my son and his daughter.

And the Rocky Mountains and Grand Canyon
should be, well, left alone.

Where alcohol should be outlawed everywhere.

Where Hollywood should get fined 50 million dollars
for every degrading, badly-acted, unrehearsed,
coldly written film it releases.

Where therapists need ten years of study before they
can practice.

Where prostitution should be legal for anyone 18 or above.

Where politics should be regarded as an art form
not a corrupt joke.

Where poets like me can live off their work
not somebody else.

Where the voting rights act was signed over nearly fifty
years ago
and there is still a black America and a white

Where John, Medgar, Malcom, Robert and Martin
were assassinated not coronated
for speaking out against oppression, hatred and

Where a revolution gave us birth and a millionaire
in Afghanistan tried to send us to death.

The Starbucks on West 6th matters tonight
It slices through the poetry critic in my head like the birth of death

Over there on the intersection of asphalt and pain
The city stops making sense

It is a brown flamingo, a flying submarine
An undiscovered leper colony

Girls walk down Superior
Thumbprints in caffeine
Non-fat milk not included

Boys sashay Lake Erie
Buttons bend below cuffs
Water runs through levee of lips

Fish lying still
Finding me away from me
Raping the riverbed of retreat

The love we share
The backs I break

Cleveland free me
Squeeze me
Believe me

The easy way is getting harder
The numbness of instinct
The intrusion of genius
The arrogance of confidence

Your warehouses and flats
Buy words my sweaters take

My angels fake
My sister makes

Your rivers snake and shake through castrated
Causeways and bulletproof heartaches

At the parking lot across from the steak house
I park my ulcer red Pontiac rent-a-car
Give Sam the attendant four dollars
I give the homeless guy down the block 35 cents
After buying a Plain Dealer newspaper from a bilge box across the street
I admit it to myself: it is your people Cleveland
Your black, your red, your white, your green

Your baritone meadows and rustic rattlesnakes

You close earlier than death my Midwestern Mohawk
You open later than life Ohio ovary

Over there by the chophouse
Children lean on charred chandeliers
Press tomatoes born while they ruled the universe in naked pinstripes

Cleveland you are my father
Guarding borders with a sunflower

(“America” and “Cleveland” appeared in New York Nadir published by Author House, 2014)

It makes my soul drum to the beat of the highway,
     robots with tears,

take a vacation, but you can't get away with it, it's simple,
     it's always inside you,

grab a bag, put it over your head,
     you cannot miss the sounds moving, rats under trees,

the words come out, you don't ever think they will, but they do,
     soldiers in the dark,

the typewriter, a tomato can with grease, doesn't help,
     but one with you, dying,

the fingers blur the fingers blur for they do not know what to do,
     they turn the general to the specific,

the mind, an apple with no crust, wonders where it all comes from,
     it wasn't made for this intensity,

Pass a statue, sit on a bench, touch the person in front of you,
     you can't lose it, it's always with you,

Yes, buttresses on a couch, you must have the faith to say it,
     to write it, to sing it,

To somehow get it out, to look my mother in the mouth
     and tell her her life means nothing,

touch your father on the cheek and tell him you would die for him,
     look, look around you, we all have gifts, we all can do it,    
      envelopes lamps,

Japanese over newspapers,
      you don’t get it little one because it doesn’t come from you,

it comes from something truer, you are the instrument,
     a mule with headlights.

(“Poetry” appeared in The Harahan Journal, Dinstuhl Publishing, 1991)

Tarumi Takagi Inouye

You Just Might Get It
On the front steps of my childhood
home, brain on fire from
grief, I sat wishing
for the world to halt, Earth to
freeze on its axis, galaxy and
universe to stop expanding.

That was a decade
ago. Dad had just
Now by governor's order, until
further notice, we shelter in place
except when absolutely necessary.
Now, with generations of trauma and
hardships hardwired in me, this order
feels natural.
I was raised with the admonition
Mottainai! - chastised for long phone calls,
using too many sheets of toilet paper.

I watched Dad save one dollar
bills in narrow drawers
of an old tansu.

In his childhood home,
plastic containers and bags
were efficiently hoarded,

door knobs were surrounded
with rubber bands. We didn't discuss
what was taken before “camp.”

My uncles filled empty tin lozenge
boxes with quarters. We ignored
their collective barbed wire nightmare.

Grandma's garden was full
with sweet scented blossoms, fruits,
succulents, vegetables.

Now the cast iron skillet
I inherited and ignored for years
is seasoned daily,

batches of dough are named
to bake bread, every crumb

Now I soak beans like
Aunty Taeko taught me,
cook them all day.

The aroma takes me back to her
small apartment, kitchen barely
big enough for us both.

Now I use every scrap like Grandma
Harue, sleep under a blanket knit by my
husband's Great-grandma Aiko.

Their stories woven together a
century ago. They arrived by ship in
the US only to be "quarantined."

Grandpa Takagi went back
to the dock for days to see if
the quarantine had been lifted, till

he learned the secret, no novel virus,
just conventional extortion.
The rotten dock master let them disembark

after taking his cash. This is
not the Land of Lincoln
my grandfather expected.

Now we rely on governors,
keep our distance to slow the Novel
Coronavirus, flatten the curve.

Now former necessities are no longer
absolute, this is an altered world. Natural
order will be restored too soon.

Patricia Murphy

When one door closes another
one opens. 
It's sad to see the passing of
Representative John Lewis
as his casket arrives at the
United States Capitol. 

We loved seeing him walk on the
Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma,

He stood with Martin Luther King
in 1963 at the March on Washington
at King’s "I Have A Dream" speech. 

Lewis was a force to be reckoned with. 
He made good changes as a congressman
and stood for the people.

He was responsible for the voting rights act. 
He was a warrior, preacher and profit. 

He longed for unity among humanity. 
Lewis was the last generation of the
Civil Rights Movement. 

Representative Lewis casket arrives in
the Rotunda. 

John Lewis said:
"To find a way to get in the way." 
"Never give up, never give in,
never become hostile." 

May he rest in peace. 

 2020.  A Cosmic Hammer of Second Sunday Poetry for the Non-Year 2020
 2020.  Poets: Alejo Rovira Goldner, Christine Jordan, Toti O’Brien, Radomir Luza, Tarumi Takagi Inouye and Patricia Murphy.
 Second Sunday Poetry Series