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Monday, January 30, 2017


by David Chorlton

He was found dead between two buildings, a homeless man who grew up in town and had been a fixture on the streets of Libertyville [IL] for many years. But it wasn't always that way. Jack Thomas, 48, was a high school grad with college degrees, a talkative sort who loved cars and music. He was said to be a dreamer who went to California in the mid-'90s to be discovered and returned a different person. —Daily Herald, January 27, 2017. Photo: Jack Thomas via Jack Thomas Memorial Fund.

Light in the window blinds marks a beginning
and the historians are busy.
Sparrows in the orange tree
sing morning news
as coffee water wakes up to a boil.
There aren’t enough votes
to stretch the darkness into one more hour of sleep.
The choice is rebellion
or breakfast. Waffles today,
served without discussion
over anything but music. A bad dream
sticks to the plates though,
and won’t wash away. The water swirls
around and around
in the eye of a storm.


A wounded train cries out to the rain
that there is still far to go.
The sidewalks are polished misery.
In the park the cormorants rest on their island
with the dripping palms
and hang out their wings to dry.
When the telephone rings
somebody speaks in Spanish, so quickly
the words fly off around the kitchen
where they can’t be caught
and understood. I’d like to be friendly
but this isn’t a day for it. It still feels uncharitable
to simply hang up
and a weak apology is the best I can summon.
There goes my voice
through the wire stretched across the yard
where the pigeons with their cold, pink claws
are waiting, whatever the weather.


There’s a somber warning
in the news again, and hummingbirds
flashing their gorgets
against a morning thundercloud.
Weeds take hold
of more territory each day
and legislation of hurricane force
is being signed into law
as we pull them.


Between the cats who show up to be fed
and coyotes running wild in the neighborhood
we’re not sure which side to be on.
The yard is eerily still this morning

while the sky fans its feathers
and a talon scratches the silence open.
Families have been divided, friendships

broken, but the homeless men
sitting in a vacant lot
have nobody left to betray them, and nothing

but the cold wind for company.
No use telling them
to join the crowd now gathering to make the best
of the situation, having learned

to laugh away our anger
and play the rain like harp strings when it falls.


A Fire Department ambulance blocks two lanes
next to the light rail station
where a man is lying down, too far gone
to appreciate

that the day’s faraway events might
have repercussions for him
when he awakens
and attempts to stand up
with nothing to hold on to. Flashing lights,

a siren, and the ambulance
leaves without him. We don’t know the protocol
for stopping to smell a person’s breath

and test his viability
in a time so burdened with violence and tragedy
that we bleed
from other people’s wounds.

David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications on- and off-line, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and late in 2017 The Bitter Oleander Press will publish Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.