“What Do You Care About?”
always words—not these
tattooed on a page but those
I couldn’t speak as I sat alone &
buried my face in gravel
on the playground
hoping no one noticed
hoping someone did
then in high school
winding the corridors
silent as if after a betrayal
my mouth was a glue trap
from which those hissing
monstrous spiders couldn’t flee
later too in bars & coffee shops
at home under yellow lights
not even to my wife
or those I swore I loved
I left my voice
in a bottle corked
I threw it far into the empty sea
“What Are the Issues That Matter to You?”
Grace sends pictures of her orchids
in their second bloom, not pink or violet
but the color of lips stained by cotton candy.
How long she fretted, flooding them,
fearing they’d die unnoticed on a windowsill.
I’m responding with a message
of praise & awe when my mother calls,
tells me her SUV overheated
forty miles from Fayetteville.
She doesn’t need a ride, she says.
The tow truck driver will take her
where she’s going. I sense a chasm
has opened underneath her feet.
I envision her falling as she speaks,
wait for her to rise again like orchids.
Two different images—I know
these are the things that matter:
what lives on, what crumbles,
what sings, & what’s then rent
upon the rocks. Why do we want
a world without such complications?
Every orchid is a phoenix flower,
meant to fade then blaze from ash.
Cars will fail & be rebuilt, as we will.
Each next step’s a mystery, &
sometimes, far from home, a busted hose.
Ace Boggess is author of two books of poems, most recently The Prisoners (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (forthcoming from Hyperborea Publishing). His poems have appeared in Harvard Review, River Styx, Rattle, Southern Humanities Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.