Poetry: Selections from Wayne F. Burke

I am standing in line
when a guy, walking
in front of me toward the
exit points, says
“that register is open.”
He wears a ball cap and
has a front tooth missing.
“Did you hear me? Down there—
it is open.”
“Take a hike.”
“Excuse me? What did you say?”
“You heard me.”
“You do not need to be rude. 
I am only telling you…I work here.”
“Take a long hike.”
He stalks off, muttering.
I move to the register:
The clerk tells me that
the guy works in the place.
“I did not know that.”
She rings up my purchase
without another word
and I slink out of there, knowing
I have been an asshole
and should apologize, but
the guy is long gone
waiting for me
around the corner.

Leaves skitter along the
pavement, sun peeks from
behind a cloud—
a quiet afternoon, nothing
out of line in the city—
a couple walk along the street,
arguing; the man begins to
scream; the woman reverses
direction; the man chases her;
she swings her pocketbook at him
like a bat; he picks up something
that fell from the pocketbook and
hits her in the face with it…
“You hit me!” she cries. “YOU HIT ME!”
“Why do you act like this?” he shouts
(but less stridently than previously).
“It is over!” she screams. “OVER! Help!
Someone call the cops!”
Leaves rush past my feet, an army of
them, running for
their lives…
A cop car shows up.
Then another cop.
The couple has already moved on, their
voices distant: meanwhile, leaves
scabber along the sidewalks of


is not that big a deal
unless you are the
one in the box
or urn—
gone so soon!
Looked good to me
last Saturday,
like not a care
in the world!”
The first shovelful of
dirt on the coffin lid, and
you know
you are not getting back
out of there,
not this time, no
not any time,
No one will dig you up,
you know that:
never be topside
time to turn your back
on succulent Spring, beautiful
Get a move-on

Out Back

Knowing who in the neighborhood
to avoid
was key;
staying out of the grasp
of beefy moles wearing misshapen
hats and
with hairy paws
reaching to massage
shoulder or back
and who
given the chance
would drag you down
into the cellar and
dismember you part by part—
those dirty drooling misfits
of the heart
who lived under cars
or in sheds out back,
who kept playing pocket pool
as they talked,
whose gimlet eyes opened
like cracks;
ogres on street corners
whose faces shone in
attic windows
when the moon glowed.

Wayne F. Burke's poetry has been widely published online and in print. He is the author of eight published full-length poetry collections--most recently Black Summer, Spartan Press, 2021. He lives in Vermont (USA).


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