Three Poems – Christian Drake

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Chantey

My true love lives in Halifax,
which sailors’ songs call Home.
My fur’s as wild as an alley cat’s
who’s yearning for her comb.
But she’s a lie. I’ve never even
been to Nova Scotia
A sailor knows no love but leaving;
I’m married to the ocean.

Hiyo, off we go,
torn between my home and the road’s sweet lips
and the dream of a girl who’s an isle of ships.

The housebound say that absence merely
makes the heart grow fonder.
But in the house, the heart sincerely
misses wild and yonder.
From casting in the sun, I yearly
age by growing blonder.
The love I spend so cavalierly
is for the road to squander.

Hiyo, off we go,
torn between my home and the road’s sweet lips
and the dream of a girl who’s an isle of ships.

How many miles are lost between
the Sickness and the Splendor?
I sent me out to sights unseen
and got returned to sender.
On water’s wine, the Nazarene
went on a holy bender.
If I’m not dead by Halloween
I’ll write you in November,
I’ll write you in November.

Hiyo, off we go,
torn between my home and the road’s sweet lips
and the dream of a girl who’s an isle of ships.

Who knew the longest route would be
the path of least resistance?
When sailors say they love the Sea,
they might just mean the Distance.
While Christ walked straight ‘cross Galilee
I’m searching for the isthmus.
All I can say with certainty:
I won’t be home for Christmas.

Hiyo, off we go,
torn between my home and the road’s sweet lips
and the dream of a girl who’s an isle of ships.

My soul keens West, although I am
a son of Massachusetts
and though I shouldn’t give a damn
I’m out of all excuses.
You don’t know Heaven from its light;
you know from its aroma.
Next time my heart will reach this height
I’ll be in Oacoma.

Hiyo, off we go,
torn between my home and the road’s sweet lips
and the dream of a girl who’s an isle of ships.



Werewolves, the Rest of the Month

They do not bare their teeth
when they sit down for breakfast,
though they stare a little long at the egg yolk,
yellow and infertile in its white cloud.
At work, their name tags seem wrong. 
Werewolves the rest of the month worry about crime in their neighborhood.
Why, three weeks ago they found that jogger
mutilated under the bridge; it was the newest party drug, no doubt.
An atheist, no doubt.
Ma'am, ma'am, would you please get control of your dog?
Werewolves the rest of the month
struggle with their weight.
Lord knows they try to diet,
but their stomachs are sharks,
their stomachs jaws with a book of endless teeth,
so they eat as if pregnant with themselves,
and they cannot lose a pound.
You see them at gas stations, munching chips
on their way to the car, slogging through the swamp of fat. 
Twenty-seven days a month,
werewolves gnaw their tongues in traffic.
They wonder where all their hair is going.
They fall asleep with the t.v. on, the blue light
licking their faces as if desperately to wake them.
Once a month they wake up naked, wet, 
and bloodshot as a severed eyeball, the sunlight a cruel surgeon.
Never again, they say. The gin.
The bright and milky gin. This is the last time.

Werewolves in the morning rarely break the law.
They wait at the door for their masters to come home. 
Their souls go wherever it is mosquitoes hide in the daytime. 
They call themselves happy.
Maybe this is why you can die in your dreams
without waking up, your body feasting on the knife.
Why you thrill when there's blood in the toothpaste.
Why you voted for the wars
twice
though you are convinced you are good.
Maybe this is why you never feel so eloquent
as when you let your car horn howl
or you cut your thumb in the kitchen
and curse like a street of night dogs barking.
Why you salivate at the wail of ambulances.
Why you secretly love to sink your hands in raw hamburger 
down to the knuckles and squeeze its neck.
And the kennel in your head,
you can only quiet it by tossing it steak after flank
of celebrity skin and local homicides.
You love to gargle mouthwash loudly in the bathroom,
how it feels like screaming while drowning,
the way you would walk along the bottom of the pool when you were young 
if you just punctured yourself,
if you just let the breath out.
Down there, you knew you were almost transformed.
Looking up at the fractured light, 
you could feel the change coming,
red and gray,
but you always chickened out and lived.

Now you drink gin 
because only vertigo makes you feel full.
Now you stare at yourself in the mirror
to study this human being with your alias
that only seems to exist
reflected in silver.


Honky Tonk Women

I met a Gypsifaro Queen in Memphis. She 
was dressed in royal purple and housecat furs,
blue jeans like the skin of an apple,
bruise-colored eye shadow.
She had never bought a beer in her life.
Just reached out and plucked it from the tree of men.
Her bar stool was the Earth’s axle. 
She came from no-good parents, and it made her free.
To look at her, the room ground its teeth with lust,
and it sounded like boots on gravel
and its heart slumped against the door jamb. 

This was where the sawdust jumped from the floor,
and the bottles were never given hand to hand
but slid. An elk-headed god loomed above his children,
the hunters. All the honky tonk women
cracked their knuckles under the table
and two-stepped around like their snakeskin boots
were alive. They wore thin gold necklaces,
they wore many men’s names:
tattoos on the hip, 
ex-husbands’ brands on their children,
even a few with the names of the sons
they were supposed to be. 
Men washed up on the barroom shore, shipwrecked men
from grain elevators, from county roads with numbers,
tar deep in their palms. 
Men who arrive at bars drunk.
Men with diesel voices. Married men,
young men with their fathers’ haircuts,
men who pay with charm and child support,
men who stare too long.

Now in my mind the dance floor is a foot deep with snakes,
and the Gypsifaro Queen is laughing smoke in the center
of a chandelier of cigarettes
as the jukebox clicks and coughs to life
and the dobro sings like a saw
and the honky tonk women need,
and the pool cue is sharpened in chalk,
and the pool table breaks like a hammer on bones,
and the honky tonk women have their hands
around the necks of tonight’s saviors.
Memphis may not have even been Memphis;
this was many years ago
when I was a young man, and drunk.
I only remember it was a city on a great river,
either the Mississippi or the Nile,
among the pale Gypsifaro and their dogs.
I recall it sounded like construction, and coming
to the honky tonk with a deep thirst
and a shallow wallet
and an ache in my back from the fists of the road.
And I remember how I was the shy one
in a room of barking men
and how the honky tonk women grabbed them
by the insides of their elbows
and wore lipstick like it was a fish hook,
and laughed with each other like the sound 
of glass bottles falling on glass bottles,
and how the gin-soaked barroom queen 
making tornadoes in her drink
chose me from the crowd
because I was the only one who did not know her name yet,
and then took me upstairs and made me say it
over and over,
and nursed me to sleep with whiskey 
so that I would forget.
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About Christian Drake

A six-time National Poetry Slam competitor from Northampton, Massachusetts, Christian lived, slammed, & taught in Washington, DC, Oakland, CA, & Albuquerque, NM before returning to New England. He works as a jack-of-all-trades middle school teacher & spends his free time narrating audiobooks, playing men's roller derby & hiking the splendid Berkshire Mountains in search of things to put in his pockets. View all posts by Christian Drake

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