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  May 2006
volume 4 number 2
-table of contents-
  home   (archived)
  contributing poets
  Maureen Alsop
  Michael Baker
  Jarvis Black
  Jack G. Bowman
  Graham Burchell
  Dana Campbell
  Jonathan Carr
  Holly Day
  Peggy Dobreer
  Francisco Dominguez
  Patricia J. Edwards
  Amélie Frank
  Ann L. Healey
  T.A. Jennings
  Gene Justice
  Scott C. Kaestner
  Sheema Kalbasi
  Deborah P Kolodji
  Marie Lecrivain
  Mary L. Mazzocco
  Terry McCarty
  Aire Celeste Norell
  Marie Rennard
  Lorraine Sautner
  Nancy Shiffrin
  A. Thiagarajan
  David Thornbrugh
  Kirby Wright
  mailing list
Gene Justice
May 2006



    Gene Justice is an American ex-patriate, currently living in South Korea. He was one of the editors for the online journal, Triplopia.
    His prose and poetry have appeared online in Lotus Blooms Journal, Writers Against War, poeticdiversity, and in print in In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself, Vol. 6 (MW Enterprises 2005) and Literary Angles: the second year of poeticdiversity (Sybaritic Press 2005). He also maintains a semi-consistent blog, where he collects thoughts, ruminations, and resources of interest to the working poet.





Echoes dreamed silver on sheer canyon walls,

carved out winds and rain and moonlit disguise—

stubble and smile tobacco-stained

gold tooth wearing dust dirty brown boots—

2 bucks a head / 10 a carload

and the voice of Vengeance

rising tinnily from seventy-five separate drive-in speakers

I watch Vengeance embodied

strung up from some dead tree

in a sea of black cowboy hats,

              my 8-year old trusting

              in dashlit glow knowing,

              along with everyone else,

what a terrible mistake the other cowboys’ve made.


Thirteenth summer, the whole family packs in

and moves west, shot out of SLC

past the Bonneville Salt Flats to Wendover,

a desert berg on the Nevada/Utah border.

Here, my third step-father dealt blackjack

in the neon shadow of a 40-foot-tall cowboy

waving at cars speeding by on the way to Reno eternally

with one giant dust-pocked hand,

pointing, with the other,

to the First Casino in Nevada.

Crouched in the flimsy shacks of sheetrock

where the casino workers lived,

I was just beginning to search, a summer

spent blinking in relentless desert noons

with the cast-off, hushed spawn of day-sleepers.

At twilight, our parents would begin to wake,

my step-father, his silver hair slicked back

in brylcreem wave, driving each evening into the desert

in my mother’s panelled station wagon,

shotgun in tow, and loosing blasts of scattershot

over salt-ravaged sands and cacti. This to relax,

imagining gravity’s pull on the bullets,

praying in his secret heart they might escape

into sun-beaten blue stretched skies always,

knowing they’d fall to earth.

My own dream, calm in rising neon, the wish

that I’d been born with Arabian blood.

Watching the sun set, the day’s heat sloughing off

into cool winds thin as despair, dreaming,

while my step-father worked, of the dark crowding

around a campfire, & the stranger’s approach

             —dreams hammered thin, earth hours enthralled

             held stunned in the poisoned and unquenchable presence

             of a god that refused me a name,

             cactus-shadowed night and clear starred horizons

             catching me unaware,

                                                       watching tumbleweeds

             crossing its thirsting grains and dry rasp tongue

what it knew,

unfathomable, unaskable,

dried to cracked

so that no ocean

could pierce its midnight



By the time I turned 14, we’d left Wendover

and my third step-father was gone for good

or ill, woke up one evening and drove into the desert

just like any other evening, only this time,

he didn’t come back.

It was years before I saw him again—

40-feet-tall, his voice tin-shrouded,

his grin dust-whetted tied behind cowboy bandanna,

crouched at the campfire of fate, rising wordlessly,

pointing westward to the invisible crosshairs

of longitude and latitude resting on the horizon

where I dream him eight days

shattered cacti bleeding in his sun-scattered wake,

station wagon steaming 30 miles from anywhere,

shotgun dusted over, lizards creeping across its cooled snout,

sky weighed down with sunlight, stretched out further than hope,

teeth clenched in a whistle,

Sweet Adeline escaping from between his hard lips

in a soft cowboy prayer to the night

for escape from the mortal and ever pull of gravity

and inertia on bullets.

copyright 2006 Gene Justice