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Sample Poems by John Gery


The thing about an empty page is
not the neatness of it, nor its play

to memory, nor the pleasure it gives
being turned, nor its lack of an illustration

to distract my inattention there,
no matter how I may console myself

thinking so, as in gazing at a distant peak
I don't have to climb. Nor the luxury,

even, of someone somewhere managing
to throw all this space away

for nothing. Is it perfume from a dress
hanging idly in her closet? Or is it

the runway an airplane ascends from
after a loved one's departure, when I,

dangling by the large plate glass inside
the terminal, imagine the press of her flesh

just gone, quickly dissipating,
stretched out before me, unnoteworthy,

like gold to airy thinness beat,
like the hours I have left

I will never share with anyone
so eventually will forget, stark,

burgeoning, beautiful yet spare,
about to be laid bare, as I veer away

to return to old habits
newly strange to me now?

To a Friend Dying of Cancer in a War Zone

29 March 1999

Fatigue-a word in English meaning more
than tired or exhausted. Last summer your
impassioned heart, Drago, your energy,
unsettled me like sudden electricity,
a jolt of love ten times the strength of men.
Tonight I'm searching for that love again.

Summit Summary

Tactfully irrelevant as the strategic plan
tucked in the vest pocket of the colonel,
third from left, beside the female translator
in this wire photo of the president's parlor
equipped with Queen Anne couches and tables
during his meeting with foreign ministers
newly arrived from the north and west by
special convoy, under the protection of arms,
to discuss the latest peace proposal both sides
with the predictability of a boomerang
will later reject, I continue my work here
as, if not Melville's sub-sub-librarian over-
flowing with scholarly ambition but utterly
forgotten behind his moldy stacks, a poet
a little less academic than an argument
on the relative market value in autumn
of the butterwort between two carpenters
assessing the property of a modest house
whose blueprint has yet to be drawn up
on a tract near the town center next to
the bank about to implode under pressure
from the mistargeted bomb now en route
aboard the previously programmed missile
launched, as it turns out, just before these
same well-dressed dignitaries in this photo
completed their lunch of beefsteak and peppers.

The Secret of Stealth

for Adam Pusloji'c

What I don't understand somehow
about the obscene pun on "Big Mac"
we saw scribbled across the U.S.
Embassy wall in Belgrade-Vi imate
mek, a mi tvrd-something to do with
the flaccid penis Serbs think of as
America, applies, too, to those bombers
tooling invisibly through an empty sky,
those black hawks we praise as heroic
in their remove. It's like the guy
who charms the pants off the ladies
but never pulls his own zipper down:
Whom are we fooling by sending them?

We are not at war with a faceless enemy
down there, hacking children apart
cool as you please, caught red-handed
in our blue sights, digitally targeted,
but with ourselves, too moot to die
readily anymore for anything
or anyone. Imagine the tiny cell
we want to impregnate everyone
everywhere with. Imagine getting
trapped there ourselves, tucked snugly
inside, as though locked in the cargo bay
on a slave ship. Imagine hard love (tvrd!)
within that tight berth. It's no wonder

our bombardiers can't wait to get home.
Traveling concealed, even in the dark,
has its liabilities. But to be hidden
in America is to be stolid and manly
as apple pie, the one jammed in the pantry
between the beets and lard. No weapon
in your hands, or cradled on your lap,
is ever quite so big as when, unseen
on its rack, untouched beneath your stiff,
shiny belly, it promises to spread its cluster
of apple seeds, driven like pure snow
onto those flailing below, the same ones
otherwise sure to ruin your best laid plans.