“As This Lay Burning” by Kimo Pokini
Two poems by Doug Ramspeck
I have carried it with me through the winter.
February evening carving wind-sweep
across sprawling drifts of snow.
Late light ebbing pale and barren on the ice.
My shovel scraping at the driveway—
when all at once
moans of sirens
lifted in the distance. When all at once I imagined Sibyl
speaking to Aeneas: Between there lies a forest,
and darkly winds the river Cocytus round the place.
Surely the forlorn dead had come to
Surely the flapping
wings of a Great Darkness
were whipping winter air into shrieking, frozen frenzy.
And then, without warning, it was done. The sky went still.
Only my shovel scraped. Snow
in white-gray membrane behind me. Night arrived
as fitful, silent
weightlessness. And there was nothing else.
Years before he would sing in Ionic Greek
of the brave souls fallen as carrion for the dogs,
of the bloody siege of Ilion, of the sirens
and the Lotus-Eaters, Homer was a blind banger
in south Chicago. It was discouraging.
He longed for epic stories of timae or keleos,
but instead there was one about the ghetto star
whose durag slipped so far across his eyes
he shot his own cousin in the calf.
And the hoot rat who fell from a first-floor
window and broke her clavicle. And everyone
drinking 40’s and getting sucked on
by some strawberry. Or that BG doing a bomb
and ending up in the Academy for pissing
on a PoPo’s shoe. It was all MSB this
or FTW that. It was still another toss up
or saggin to the point it was nearly impossible
to walk. And everyone kept asking him to tell
that one about the fugly so fat you couldn’t
find the spot amid her folds. Sometimes
there were days when he would go out on a g-ride
or would be working curb service when all
he could think about was how bleak
the Chicago streets felt in the cold.
And even though he flew the flag, was always
and forever, and was selected once as a joke
to be the blow man, he dreamed some day of finding
a leather bag containing all the winds, of Achilles’
strength and wrath, of dead Patroclus, of dactylic
hexameter, of hubris, of a young Nausicaa or the Cyclops
or the spirit of Tiresias or Circe or the cannibal Laestrygones
or the monster Scylla—then finally home to Ithaca.
Doug Ramspeck is managing editor and poetry editor of two online journals, both called Hog Creek Review: