Poetry: Selections from Jean-Luc Fontaine

Ode to Nigel

I read about a seagull  
named Nigel living off
the rocky coasts of New Zealand
who’s been trying to mate
with a concrete decoy for over five years.
I’m sure all of us can relate:
trying to woo
a rock-stiff statue of a date—  
the argle-bargle as you twist
spaghetti around a fork,
desperately thinking of ways
to buoy the conversation.                                                                                                                                                                                       Like Rachel, who stared
blankly at me as I told her
I hunkered in New York
for two years, praying
my poetry might take off,
like a pigeon scared
from the girders under Penn Station,
to which she laughed and said,
But no one reads poetry anymore.
Or Emily who watched me
tumble down the side of a sandy mountain
straight into a caucus
of cactuses, then stared
at her smartphone—
her Instagram feed flickering
in her egret-white eyes—
as I plucked each green spike
from the trunk of my thigh.
So tonight, instead of flapping
the small wing of my thumb
through Tinder, I pour
myself a glass of water,
and watch YouTube videos
of Nigel—watch as he dances round
his decoy, spinning round
and round, like a whirling
dervish forever trapped
by the everlasting tornado of love.

Ode to Flies

For the last hour,
I’ve swatted at the small
platoon of flies
that have invaded
my house; I’ve rolled
the glossy magazine
on my desk
into a tube, then tried
to bat them out of the air,
like a little leaguer
desperate to hit a ball.
Until, I realize
I was in the middle
of paying my electric bill;
that I have to call
my doctor about the dull ache
in my boomerang back.
And soon, I have completely forgotten
about the three flies
climbing up and down my window,
like spies suction cupping
their way up a glass skyscraper.
That’s how the past works:
during the day, it might try
to fly at your face,
bomb its ugly, hairy body
into your head, but with a flick
of your hand it’s gone,
and as you busy yourself
with chores, work,
that rogue chunk of cheese,
you forget about the past.
But at night,
when you’re standing
on the cliff of sleep,
getting ready to cannonball
into the dirty swamp of dreams,
that’s when it returns.
When you’re bone-tired,
too drained to even lift
the sheets from your body,
then it beats its silk wings
softly against your skin,
then it rings its dark bell
gently in your ear.


The week after I lost my job
  for showing up
 drunk to work,
I plucked the pollen-
                             hefted weeds
       from my garden,
              then peppered the soil
with ghost pepper seeds.
                        Every morning
I woke up hungover,
                        but still I pulled
my jacket over
   the stalks of my arms
                    and filled
my watering can—
          tried not to retch
as I lowered
           the neck over that pebble-
splotched patch of dirt.

Before lunch,
      I would take the bus
from one side
                  of town to the other,
handing out resumes,
     shaking the nicotine-
           smeared hands
of managers;    
and in the afternoons,
                       I would try to forget
about the bleached bones
          of my fridge, the bills
stacked high on the table,
as I scythed the dead leaves
 from my ghost
                               pepper plant.
And on those days,
   when I schlepped my TV
         or my dinged-up microwave
to the pawn shop,
I would take a glass
              of vodka,
walk out into my garden,
and admire
      the small red buds
starting to ember
            on the green.
So, weeks later,          
             when I saw the red ghost
pepper fully grown,
 hanging from the branch
like a Christmas
I plucked it and sank my teeth
                    through half—
my vodka left untouched
     in the freezer
as I rushed to the kitchen              
       in search of something
to quell the fire
              inside my mouth.

Jean-Luc Fontaine is a Tucson based poet. He enjoys looking at cactuses and drinking cheap, instant coffee.


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