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Tom Conley Apr 2018
Melted glass that bubbles, pops, and cracks
like a laugh, or the slide of shining skin
on porcelain in the bath — you rise and splash — 
you settle and relax, you sigh and glisten.

The smoothness of a thigh like pink petals:
fragrant silk just like the heart of a rose.

Grey moth-eyes of fluttering fog that falls,
fading into the night — why are you closed?

I should have known better. You should have known.

Even honey sours and petals drift
like snow. But there’s a place where love still grows,
row on row, a quiet garden. Be quick — 
before our hearts are hardened, we’ll go and find
the snoring bees, where time has conquered time.
Tom Conley Apr 2018
We stopped to eat at a McDonald’s after — 
I’m sure the counter-girl could smell

the plastic-clean of stitches and nurses’ gloves
and medication hanging over him

while we ordered fries and burgers to fill
our guts before we made the long drive home.

And when we found a seat I thought that things
were fine. We sat there talking about the family,

until he spilled his drink and lost his ****,
real bad this time, and he stood and said:

“I was alive when Carpenter’s was still
the biggest bus maker around — your grandpa

lived in Tunnelton and drove to work
across the cliff to crank them out. He smelled

like oil and the dusty river all the time,
and he used to never let your mother out

at night, because he thought that cougars
were thick around his farm. You bring her back

before the frogs are calling, he’d say, you bring her
back before the cats get at her face —

my daughter there’s worth more than your life — 
she’s a queen and that’s a real queen’s face.”

He paused to **** a piece of ice and smiled,
and then he looked at all the busy people

bent up over their plastic dinner trays
looking at him, and he bit the ice and laughed.

“I never saw a cat like that. It was
the cliff that got her, and he should have watched

the river, driving by it all the time
the way he did to go and build those buses —

lots of things were rusting in the river,
and I guess the busses rusted, too. I didn’t see

a killer cat around the farm, but I saw
a thing or two that’s worse. I saw the light

they lit over her grave — you were too young
but you saw it, too: a propane thing we filled

together. You can’t buy one like that today — 
today it’s all electric and plastic stakes,

and you never have to see the grave again
after you’ve planted one of those solar lights.

It stays for good. Those lamps outlast their names — 
as long as the sun remembers to pay respects.

But I remember liting the little flame.
I remember how your grandpa’s face

lit up like a ghost’s, and I could see the scar
something large carved in his cheek one night

when he was hunting raccoons by the riverbank
out near the mouth of the Tunnel. It’s all

gone now — even the river’s lost the way
it used to smell like pines from on up north,

and only ghosts walk through the Tunnel — gone.
All of it. All gone. I guess he should have watched

the cliff, because it’s all gone now. All of it.
Even the buses rusted away, and there’s

no flame to mark the ghosts that’s left to stay — 
all we’ve got are lights that last forever.”
Tom Conley Mar 2018
A pile of rotten maple leaves
looks like a granite mountain
after the fluttering confusion
of confetti-cut whirling snow

but do you remember when your
lemon-scented hair was plastered
across the icy sleeve of my coat
like the leaves around my porch?
Tom Conley Mar 2018
I read some beautiful poetry,
and I thought that I would write a poem

as if I was making an axe handle
I could use to free the feelings stirred

like termites in the roots of my chest,
which is to say my ribs —

even though that’s not quite
exactly what I meant to say.

What I really wanted to say
was something more elaborate

like, “all the birds sing
spring, they don’t sing for the spring —

they make it suddenly spring
by singing.” But then I got selfish.

And I decided not to write
a poem. You don’t get to know

what I felt, and what a joy it is
to keep these feelings to myself.
Tom Conley Feb 2018
You see where the city trucks sprayed
all the roads with salt this morning?

It was supposed to snow. The news
said we would be snowed in, but then—

you see these lines of salt? It's not like
they're doing much to keep us moving.
Tom Conley Feb 2018
**** and fire. The smells of food and drink:
desire. Small handprints on the rocky womb
mark where we began to want — to think — 
before we left our ignorant stone tombs,
tossing rocks behind us, where thoughts arose.
Memories awoke to chide us. Confide
in me: who was the third, the thornless rose,
you held between your teeth? Don’t try to hide
from me. There are some things the blind can see,
and I have known them all — and told them all.
Flowers grows where tears flow like a stream,
and soon, if you don’t speak, these vines will fall
across your eyes. I recall a stolen kiss:
tasting the words before you could confess.
Tom Conley Feb 2018
The snow has let go of the leaves
it held mached with ice beside
the western stairs of my back porch
like-half forgotten valentines

it tried to mail before the sun
cooked the corpse of our Christmas tree,
releasing all those mint-sapped scents
like the presents I forgot you gave me.
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