archives spring 2009



Nocturne with Variation on a Landscape
After Joel Sternfeld’s McLean, Virginia, December, 1978

Former horror-film house in the background: to be saved, scrapped
or dumped in some nearby landfill. What was contained within windows
and boards, frames buckling, asbestos even withering in such heat?

To always see some hand turning black, pressed to window-glass for seconds
before its retreat, the dying trees masking firemen—yellowed and cracking
like mottled pumpkins—shooting water toward the flames, dousing the roof

with anything to stop the burning. And the market, positioned so close
to where he stands—the reaper’s silhouette looming above—one man
not with the others, choosing the best, wondering if he’ll later jam needles

into its orange skin before they pierce the boy’s who tries to grasp it, unable
to smash and run with his palms gushing blood. And some scythe sweeping
the wheat nearby, onlooker spotting gray smoke, too far away to glimpse

the flames, the slowly mechanizing crane raising and lowering the hose
as dusk turns its darker gray, hovering around the one pine, maples
bare and vanishing, their leaves already seeping into the ground. How far

did they come? And what was worth saving? Sometimes I want to drive
for weeks until I can find it. But thirty years later, what’s left is blood and bone
and hair growing under the graves. The house leveled from its charred excuse

or to clear the space for some mall. I want to ask everyone I can see why
they didn’t help. Someone started the blaze. Someone dropped a lit cigarette, knees
locked from a heart attack, fell asleep by a candle under the ceiling fan. Someone

probably burned among such beauty. And this could be anywhere of all
the places I have lived. Because everything turns bright before it turns black,
and as night finally fades, we’ll always trap ourselves within the walls. 


Nocturne with Trash Fires and All We Thought Had Ended

We thought such violence was abolished: bright red blood gushing
          from celluloid stomachs, pixilated funnel clouds in the middle

of one-dimensional plumes, scentless and quickly falling to the ground
          like sheets dropping from clotheslines. Before it was freedom

and the joy of faces shrouded in purples, greens, reds—rocket-fast
          cracks whipping into the air across sky. Before cars were set

on fire in alleys from which they would never move again. Before
          M-80s under cats and in dumpsters, softer than bullets, but more

and more, and the squealing that we couldn’t get out of our heads.
          Kerosene doesn’t blow up anything. It burns and burns . . .

They had eyes on every window, and the streets were always warmer
          as the fires never died. Waves of flame crept onto porches

and through houses. Families ran through streets with nothing
          to explain to their children. We were high up, had no weapons.

We thought of crossbows and maces, contraptions to fly over walls.
          We closed our eyes and hoped it would all go away.

The blackened windows we tried to secure with anything
          to shroud the screams. But we could still see and hear

and ran out of food faster than we thought. Someone skulked around
          our building. One of us saw through ripped clothes and holes.

No way all of this can burn. Love, I wrote you letters, wrapped them
          in whatever I could find. I wrote what I could never say then.

It will happen like this, I scrawled in blood. We will not be ending together.


Nocturne with Endless Squealing

On I-95 the truck swerves, metal flinting concrete,
          squeals and howls
roaring through the median. Everywhere fragments

our eyes can’t believe. This is not the place where
          people should meet—
glaring and exiting cars by this interstate bend. On I-95

the truck swerves, metal flinting concrete. Ignitions cut,
          children bawling
in car seats as their memories lock. Nothing will amend

what’s everywhere: fragments our eyes can’t believe. Flares
          lit in darkness: red
flame, red heat scorching our vision—our bodies to faint

and collapse near the truck on I-95, metal finished flinting
          concrete. We’d give
anything to be back: familiar streets and long summers,

starlight beginning its lament. Now, everywhere fragments
          our eyes can’t
believe. This is nothing but a treatise on defeat. We can give nothing—

there won’t be an ending. On I-95 the truck swerved, metal
          flinting concrete—
everywhere these fragments our eyes must believe.  bug


Keith Montesano’s first book, Ghost Lights, a finalist for the 2008 Orphic Prize, will be published by Dream Horse Press in 2010. Other poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, American Literary Review, Third Coast, Ninth Letter, Crab Orchard Review, Another Chicago Magazine, River Styx, Nimrod, and elsewhere. Beginning in the fall of 2009, he will be a PhD Candidate in English at Binghamton University.