Three Poems

April 5, 2018
Courtesy of Natalia_Kollegova/Pixabay




The Ibis, in Egypt, was not a bird,
he was Thoth, the god in the pyramid
with my heart in his scimitar beak.
We are not just star dust, but dust
from burst galaxies. Deny me a bird
won’t judge my heart on a silver scale,
against a feather plucked from its wing.
There was a scratch in the blue dresser
from your sweet aviary of a childhood.
The scratch was a tiny, strutting Ibis.
I spotted the Ibis many eclipses ago.
A little Ibis on the shores of the Nile.
Do not judge or curse, my meaty heart
broke Egypt’s quantum scale. I walked
a blue shoreline, hoping for a Phoenix. 




We left our suits on round rocks,
waded to our knees, dipped hands
in the mud, and laughed. I slid a finger
to your breast. You blazed a handprint.
I dressed you with the hot, silky mud;
you adorned my back. We stumbled
to the shore and loved like crocodiles,
grappling. When we awoke, the sun
lost in the volcano, an anole lizard
glared from a palm frond, slut-eyed
and silent. The mud had dried on our
young bodies, and cracked like eggshell




I have flown waving a plastic, broken heart,
sung in a broken baritone: bright, algorithmic
words; laughed where love languished; my faith
squealed at the state line of love. I remember
like a vampire. I found lukewarm blood percolating
in the cities, and with gold venom, fixed a lonely
corpse. She told me her dream of a nice night,
and completely forgot I wasn’t there. I wasn’t.
A man like me is the one who ought to die.

Courtesy of NHPR (

Tom Paine’s story “Oppenheimer Beach” appeared in the November 2012 issue of WLT. His poetry is upcoming or published in The Nation, Glasgow Review of Books, Volt, Fence, Blackbox Manifold (Cambridge), The Common, Epiphany, Green Mountain Review, Forklift, Tinderbox, Hunger Mountain, Hotel Amerika, Gulf Stream, Tampa Review, and elsewhere. Stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New England Review, The Boston Review, Best New Southern Stories, The O. Henry Awards and twice in the Pushcart Prize anthology. He has won fellowships from Sewanee, Yaddo, and Bread Loaf and written for Francis Ford Coppola. His first collection, Scar Vegas (Harcourt), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a PEN/Hemingway finalist. A graduate of Princeton and the Columbia MFA program, he is an associate professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire ([email protected]).

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