February 24, 2019

Three Poems by Chuck Von Nordheim: "Self Portrait #7", "Self Portrait #2" and "Self Portrait #3"

A northern Los Angeles County denizen, Chuck Von Nordheim lives where the land shifts from chaparral to desert. An Honorable discharge recipient, he marches with Iraq Veterans Against the War. A Grateful Dead devotee, he endorses the healing power of tie-dye. An MFA graduate, his work appears in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 5, Hapax Literary Review, and Cacti Fur.


Self Portrait #7

The Glass Menagerie mirrors me.
Like Tom, I fled a tyrant parent
as soon as I schemed an escape.
We used different models of exit hatch—
The Merchant Marine lacked tech geek allure,
so I swapped my bad sitch for an Air Force hitch—
but both involved dress up ever so butch.

Like Tom, I too possessed a sister
lamed with a trembling sadness that I
left penned in the familial force field.
No gentlemen callers did I deliver
who could do rescue by the magic
of marriage metamorphosis.
But I watched the parade of proxies
for Jim, youth ministers who sold
self-improvement through the Jesus plan
with a spearmint-scented eagerness
akin to Mister O’Connor’s hymns
praising the joys of public speaking.

Unlike Laura, no prior polio foiled
my sister’s steps and no lobotomy
would decelerate her tortured thoughts.
Vodka and Paxil severed her
unicorn horn without surgery.

Gender flipping our blood intimate
enemy from Amanda to Mandy
gives the triangle we lived its three sides.
Like Mrs. Wingfield, Dad had a barbed
tongue that flensed away all self-esteem.
But he possessed a second villain
power as well, pulpy, pudge hands
skilled at evading any defense
against his incestuous caresses.

He touched her and touched her and touched her.

Only murder could have stopped his
sins and I feared what the law would
do to a father killer.
Across forty years I still hear them.
His grunts. Her screams. I had to go.

Like Tom, I’m savvy to the fact
the time and place made a dual
getaway an infeasible stunt.
But knowledge does not stop the self-
Indictment. Shrive me, Sis. Blow your
candles out, blow your candles out.

Self Portrait #2

His bald gleam
blinds my logic.
His denture glare
sears my desire.
Via a daydream
escape pod I flee
the in-law inquisitor,
seeking a wormhole
route to the alternate
universe of pleasant dinners.
But the flesh tractor
beam of his sick tongue
nevertheless energizes,
returning me to the fray.
I combat ion
cannons of cash
autocracy with photon
torpedoes of leftwing scorn.
Interstellar charts
place this battle site
in the Denny’s sector
near the coordinates
commonly called
Hemet, California.

Self Portrait #3

His monthly quota of drills
done, the airman undertakes
personal camouflage attempts
by means of mind mask
removals done in
reasonable round
trip vision quests near
Edwards Air Force Base.

He lets Mojave
sands erase ego as he
merges with Death Valley.
He lets chemical-kissed
waters submerge self as he
merges with the Salton Sea.
These late afternoon
sheddings of personhood
soothe his soul far more
than a chilled Corona,
the only mental relief
valve warriors were allowed.

Due to its sunset
charm, plus its drive-time
Oceanside Pier earns
in the young troop’s burnt
out brain as number
one psychic fusion
He embeds there now:

He raises cloth lids,
pale strips of muslin,
that had barred vision
past greasy seafood
restaurant windows.
Froth-topped breakers
caress tar-decked legs.
visitors walk up
his spine of warped wood.
Fishermen lean out
from his railed navel.

Much better this dream
than daytime nightmares
consisting of rehearsed
against conscripted
peasant brothers who
differ from the young
airman in no way
except in whose orders
they must obey

Chuck Von Nordheim

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