December 10, 2017

Three Poems by Alex DeBonis: "Lover," "Bribes Like These," and "Wishes of the Deceased"

Alex DeBonis grew up in Seymour, Indiana and graduated from Indiana University. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Buck Off Magazine, Tipton Poetry Review, Hartskill Review, Indiana Voice Journal, Yellow Chair Review, Parade, and Ilanot Review.

Photo by DH Allen


The word still makes me cringe.
So adult-sounding. And smug
with purpose. As if we’d never act
immature. The brewery that night
was spectral Kansas, the break room
a third-shift, third-rate Oz.
I slumped in a plastic chair.
A low cough from nearby took me
to your dreaming side, your breath
catching at all that day’s wrongs.
Your dark bedroom smelled like
your hair, softer than towels folded
in the cabinet. I borrowed a pen
and scrawled on paper napkins:
Don’t hate me for yesterday,
I’ll pick up some milk, If you know
how much love I have for you 
and other jagged pleas. I got a ride
to your mother’s, left the napkins
under your windshield wipers.
Up through limbs, I squinted.
Rain could smear my last chance.

Bribes Like These

First time
a cake glistened on
that kitchen counter now
free of scratch-off
tickets, junk mail,
bags empty, Dad,
it was clear, had cooked,
cleaned, had been at the
cake mix, the vodka,
the Windex since noon.

Next time,
no cake but a new
glass fish tank, with no
fish, just orange rocks.
Bribes like these kept
me quiet about every
last drink.

Wishes of the Deceased

He’d expected his service to dignify itself,
no bright laughs threading the air of grief.
It makes him restless, to wish mourners more dour,
ruddy blooms drained from their cheeks.
His brothers’ mouths shriveled to hyphens;
his wife mute, movements stiff from despair.
Not that coworkers with squawks of glee
would recall his office habit of post-lunch farting;
that clinking glasses would drown out the hymns;
that among the bouquets, two breathless boys,
loafers slapping tiles, would lunge for shirttails
—sprinters in some race without a finish . . .
Meanwhile, she, awash in mourners’ admiration,
and lipstick neat, looked impassively on his body,
grew more crisp and lovely during the eulogy;
While he, pricked by dart after dart, moped,
slipped between minister and book to see the verse,
appraised the ceremony’s air: not one bit noble.
On the anniversary of his death, grackles amass
like bands of coworkers yelling dirty jokes,
dispersing another year of his vaulted silence.

Alex DeBonis

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