Poems by Charles Fort

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The Vagrant Hours


The month of sonnets:
The long distance runners roamed the hills
recited their poems in the afternoon and kissed.
The poet-professor in corduroy cuffed pants
daydreamed of the evening flask of black whisky
his nights watch over the hour glass of metaphors.
The young men were cumbersome in their stalls.

The month of sestinas:
The charm of lovers against the burred ivy walls
held the riddle of sixes and coaxed the student’s heart
to a blackboard of pentagrams and tarot flames in chalk.
The griot’s basket of apples, chestnuts, and maple leaves
held back the screen door of their teacher’s writing studio.
The young women were cumbersome in their shawls.

The month of villanelles:
The young poet nods off in the back of the classroom
and a wooden pointer curled the cowlick on his head.
He was made to stand before the assembly and sing.
With long shadows and wings of the runners on the hill
into November’s end and the town clock’s vagrant hour
he lowered his head and begged a rhyme scheme for love.

The month of elegies:
They held the widow’s wreath and opulent arms of death
kissed the child’s thumb that broke out of a wool mitten.
They waited under a rain of taps and six gun salute
for the son to place his hand on his father’s cheek
for the wry minister to rise from his narrow chair
and place the widow’s glove and ring in the tomb.



The month of blank verse:
They say he tracked a wounded animal
drop for drop for three and a half damn weeks
broke its fat neck barehanded dead and stirred
right strong coffee until he heard noises.
The hot prairie wind howled a fancy tune.
He knew it was a way of knowing things.

The month of ballads and woe:
The traveler brings a small gift to her screen door
and he barely remembers the song she whispered
sixteen years before under the lilac covered bridge.
Was that her low voice rising above the top of trees
or a meteor with its own articulation of the heavens
in the arc of falling embers that filled the brown field?

The month of pantoums:
She stood for hours in mud
for a handsome young man
who turned into a beer slug
not a fine bottle of wine.

For a handsome young man
who turned into a beer slug
not a fine bottle of wine
she stood for hours in mud.

The month of odes and affliction:
This was not the cruelest nor a tepid month Mr. Eliot
until a letter arrived out of nowhere from a best friend
the best damned drinking friend twenty six years ago.
He wrote about old poems that spent his failing heart
who had very little time in the red stained hour glass
how he was on a waiting list for love and a new heart.



The month of heroic couplets:
Let there be thunder in his heart again
let a church bell’s echo dance in his pen!
Where he erred once let him live twice
as he lived once let him sing with light
Let his hands turn the hour glass
and the last sailboat raise its mast!

The month of pastorals:
The poet met Art Pierce cliff side at Ojo Caliente
his calligraphy on clay birds in mosaic and arsenic
sent by the god of letters to the underworld spring.
They lifted their chalices to the crippled and mortal
who swam the miracle waters for the unkind rebirth
who sought refuge in the ghost chamber of the earth

The month of stanzas:
This was the month of writer’s block.

Nothing moved his fingers on the typewriter
until rain outside his studio in the burnt sky
formed a rainbow in the watchmaker’s eyepiece.
What landed on his bad shoulder a poor white raven
found in his good hand a ruby from the baker’s oven.

The month of vers libre in his bare hands:
The poet learned the rules of open form
in the black ink spread across the pages
one misspelled word in the spelling bee.
He studied the burial ground of images
how love was subtle and hidden in a line
how love was metered and love was rare.

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