Carcinogenic Poetry: Top Ten No. 4

Grey December
with apologies to Chet Baker

Santa is out of sorts
he knows he can’t fulfill
the children’s wish list
nor his own wish for
better times ahead

Even the sneaky sheep
and the whimsical
candy striper trying to bum
cigarettes on the corner
of 7th and Chestnut look frustrated

And look at all the demented
snowmen dotting side street lawns
in front of boarded up homes
where spillovers and crack pipes
seek shelter

On this Grey street
December runs throughout
the calendar year

And there are no kindly frost giants
or fairy tales with rainbow endings

This is the place
where Mother Goose was added
to a missing persons list
and all the flowers ran away


Rave On

All those lascivious boys
surrounded by breasts
and ass swinging beehives

The overly painted spectacle
and fake eyelashes covering
every inch of the dance floor
was truly amazing

And for several minutes
we were in kid heaven
until the long-armed boot
signaled: “come back in 5 years”

But it never was the same
after that one time

When Buddy died
everything changed


Friend

the night burns
between cold stars

a leaf falls center
and the pond breaks

look close
something is stirring below surface

flow with it
let yourself descend

find the space between the lines
—you hold the keys


Dead Cigars

There is an endless stream of cars
moving in both directions on the avenue

I have been counting the ones that are missing
one hubcap as they drive by

Eventually, it all slows down
as the sun drops over the treetops

This day has been spent
sitting on a bench facing the street

Returning to the garden level
where I cohabit with centipedes, spiders,
seasonal steam radiators, pipes, and other
unmentionables; the silence caves in on me

There’s too much clutter
and a growing number of dishes
are piling up in the sink

The neighbor girl will soon be here,
she likes the vinyl records
and the cobwebs covering the bookcases

But I’m becoming more self-conscious
about my surroundings and clear a spot
for her when she arrives

She picks Hank Mobley’s, “No Room For Squares”
from the racks and digs it

I tell her it’s from a 1963, Blue Note session
and that Mobley was unappreciated in his time

She’s blown away and tells me
the record is 25 years older than herself

I talked about the day it was purchased
but felt it best not to mention the year 1964

Richard D. Houff has had over twenty books published in both poetry and prose. His work has appeared in Cage, Gargoyle, Midwest Quarterly, Parnassus, and the Wisconsin Review.

Carcinogenic Poetry: Top Ten crystallizes the journal between 2009 and 2015, sharing the most read posts to date. Presented from final poem to the top of the set, Richard’s poems were published on Sunday, November 11, 2012, and was the seventh most read post at Carcinogenic Poetry.

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