Wednesday, May 24, 2017


After Midnight Melancholia XIII

Do they still sit in Chicago
the way they did in Detroit?
Heads slung like loose pails
over boilermakers and a bowl of chips,
their pockets weighted with punch
card receipts and lottery ticket steam,
fingers, swollen and numb,
curled against the ache
to dam rivers running down the glass.

Are they still praying for rain in San Ysidro,
            the way they did Juarez?
Huddled in hull of moving truck trailers,
sweat and muscle packed on top of sweat and muscle,
the long haul over borders,
carrying the weight of the disappeared in their pockets,
fingering the empty space
as they climb into Coyote’s mouth,
shed their skin for his and take
on the shape of car seat cushions,
spare tires, the spaces between the frame.

Are the clubs still closed in Miami,
the way they were on the Tenderloin?
The long line of mourners
in step with sound of gunshots,
the deafening thud of bullets on the dancefloor,
grim faces in the stobe
caught in the anguish of metal meeting flesh.
The clipped sprigs, culled from the varietals of love,
laid at the feet of another soft figure
bound to a fence post and wrapped
in the thorny arms of barbed wire.

Are the waters still muddied
        in Memphis,
the they were in Lafayette?
Hammered by hurricanes
named for their mothers and runaway sisters,
the future ghosts of milk carton babies
break bottles against vacancy
and wrong way traffic signs.
Sirens bleed red and blue,
shattering the fragile seal of the night.

Are they still pulling bodies from the lake?
Skin bloated and bruised.
Nests for black scaled snakes and leeches.
Eyes long eaten away.
The sockets full with foul-smelling mud.
Generations below the surface
Now strung up like prize catches
Live on my facebook stream.

Are we pulling people off of planes now?

Are we making lists?

The answer is yes.
The answer is always yes.

The old projector rattles,
its ancient gears spinning in reverse
waking its horrible radiate eye.
News reel phantoms shudder across the drug store wall,
across the skeletal shape of tight packed trees at night,
goosesteping over cars in an empty railyard,
across the ceiling of your bedroom as your children sleep.
The faces on the television laugh
on high above the imperial pulpit.
They spit and sweat fear from their eyes.
With fingers, thick and fat,
they lick the other side of the screen clean,
wagging in disbelief at the fires in the street.
Boogeymen to claim a phantom in every bed,
reaching long hands from the closet
to steal the depth of color from your eyes.
           The sky isn’t blue,
            it’s falling.
It’s just locker room talk.
A cigar is a cigar.
Ceci n'est pas une pipe.
You’re the puppet,

and another bloodstain blisters
on a sidewalk in Englewood,
between her pretty little legs,
clenched in the fist of the first punch thrown.
The answer is yes.
The answer is always yes,

but do we rise?
Do we shake off the sluggish bonds of sleep
and rise?
Cross the cold, stark light of morning
and rise?
With the phantoms of our lesser selves still clinging to our hearts
do we rise?
And with uneasy steps and ragged breath
do we rise?
To reach into the stubborn darkness
and answer the hellish resonance
rebounding off every wall
until it seems to surround us,
until every step away becomes ever in, ever in…

Do we rise?

The answer is yes.

The answer is always yes.

--Larry Duncan

Bio: Larry Duncan currently lives in Redondo Beach, CA. His poetry has appeared in Juked, the Mas Tequila Review, Emerge Literary Journal and the Free State Review. He is the author of two chapbooks, Crossroads of Stars and White Lightning and Drunk on Ophelia. To learn more about Larry and his writing, visit at

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