archives winter 2008



The Dog Has Since Come Home

Though the dog came back that night to your home,
it still says nothing of the world—
only that the right spot between his eyes
can be scratched, making him forget
the other end of the leash
and why he howled that night in the darkening street.

You heard threats from a gang as you strolled down the street,
before knowing, near dusk, you wouldn’t be going home.
The gangs brawled, fists thrashing skulls. You yanked the dog’s leash
just as it felt like the end of the world
would be tiptoeing toward you. Neither would you forget.
Now, I’m staring at the pink “missing” poster, your virgin eyes

glaring back at mine, as if two pairs of eyes
can cancel each other for good. Did you hate that fight on the street,
thinking: how hard it is to forget
how many lose their way home
to the sad condolences of the world
the only option to pull tighter on the leash?

How loud was the sound of the leash
as it flicked and writhed on the road? Did the dog’s closing eyes
and ravaged scent take in that world
or only the rankness of sewer from the street?
A field, a garage, a bench: anything can be a home
if you escape from what you know, forget

the laws, if any remain, forget
what forces controlled the leash
and how the dog was led back home
by the clear vision of his eyes.
Did you fear everything around you in the street—
the last representation of your world?

You shouldn’t have known about this world.
And wouldn’t we like to forget
what happened that day in the street?
Before he lured you did he cut the leash?
Did you see the color of his eyes?
And what, after that, was your definition of home?

Now, the leash balled up somewhere in your home,
we try to forget this world—
your eyes still flashing: what happened in the street?


Elegy Ending with the Voice of Edward Van Dyk

“Dr. Van Dyk was one of the best.” —Ron McMullen, president of Alton Memorial Hospital

Quickly the children plummeted from his grasp—
          someone mouths each flawed word after white sheets
                    shroud bodies below makeshift tents, as if interred

on the street among gray eyes of every person
          passing. Two small sheets. The third for a man. No more
                    suicide note scrawl, as if it’s even less important now

for everyone to know why. And who knows how
          they fought? If he accused her of affairs she was finally
                    unable to cover. Still his website’s accessed: phone number,

education, insurances accepted. The small photograph: eyes
          rim the frames of his glasses. Mouth a dull O and empty—
                    eternally waiting. Wish for feigned stock footage: a man gripping

his first son, dragging him to the hotel balcony, the sirens already
          floating around the nebulae of his arresting brain. Throwing
                    and kicking, biting and the letting go—I love you or no warning

or God will take care of us. What can hide in the mind so long
          that it ends with this audience, this sacrificed blood?
                    And the second son, eight years old, confused and destined—

we can’t know if there were words or screams, if he floated
          like Icarus, falling toward ocean, hoping angels
                    would scoop him into diaphanous nets. Sometimes

I wish I could call the number, listen to his voice
          on that distant machine, magnetic and repeated before the phone is purchased                     again: You’ve reached Dr. Edward Van Dyk. Erase.


Unreal City

In this city, at birth, all are given time to trade, gamble away, live
          with what they have—
dusk on a beach for a clean syringe, seaweed for a washed-up body.

A boy buries himself in wet sand, stares at the sea. Casinos take
          their bets: slots
for minutes or hours, blackjack for days or months—some playing

for decades. A woman catches fire, pushes everything. The last moment
          she can suck the life
from her brother, the wires puncturing his stomach will not

transfer time. She seizures, a crowd circling her body, blond hair
          spastic, radiant
off the slot lights and swirled casino floor. At the same time,

at a pawnshop down the street, a man trades his art collection
          for one more month—
stolen museum prints from his father: paled Monet’s, Bosch’s

rid of claustrophobia, knife-slashed Picassos, the faces
          now real: blurred
and waking dreams. Trust me: somehow I see my face in them all.  


Keith Montesano currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, and teaches English at Virginia Commonwealth University. His work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Literary Review, Third Coast, Ninth Letter, Another Chicago Magazine, Florida Review, Harpur Palate, Eclipse, and elsewhere. His first manuscript was recently named a finalist for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award from Southern Illinois University Press.