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Manoa 15.1 (2003) 73-75

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Three Poems

Stephan Torre


Empty yourself, my Buddhist friend urged, let the bull thistle
blow out of the naked orchard,
rasp and auger down through
your pulpy lungs and bacon.
Sweaty old latigo tightens
around the center of this
fleshy bag of intentions, nervous
duffel of garlic and gingerroot, wobbly
stump full of pitch, rum, gratitude,
spikes and beetle holes, hungry
bag of man.
It's gonna take some time
for the porcupine waddling
through pine duff to settle
for a burnt hollow log, or the punky
house Bluebear ripped
open for dessert
and a dusty satori. Gonna
take some time to shake out
all the bluetooth grog, gringo salsa,
Berkeley grinds and shards
of broken Cartesian mirror.
Whatever agitation
you ascribe to this porky [End Page 73]
pine-eating wanderer,
don't mistake him
for the blackjack dealer,
coon in a culvert,
or the weasel slipping
through a rusty pipe
for a mouthful of rat.
Temple server and lotus
seeker, listen:
behind his black lips
is a glowing cud of amber.


If you have ever slid down into the last
purpling light of November from a pine snag
or juniper, like a chicken hawk or magpie, sleek
in your russet vest or black and white cocktail suit,
arrogant and fat with roadkill or hot rabbit heart;
ever cruised down the omnivorous dusk from lava-cracked sky
or abandoned barn rafters, over alkali swales, tufa,
sage, coyote tails, bitterbrush, rattler fangs, the powdering
bones of cattle and buckaroo geldings—like señor magpie,
quick butler of solitudes, you would know
why an old pickup full of diesel might even
tempt a Buddha. [End Page 74]

Under the Badger's Nose, Late January

If the fang of moon
at your elbow, cutting ice and lava
from a winter rim rock night,
or the yellowing plastic can
of twelve-volt light with dead bugs
above your balding head in the trailer;
whether another ham and jack
Cartesian sandwich, or simply
a hard-boiled Nietzschean
or Buddhist egg
to suck on with a shot
of pepper and tequila,
either way you gulp
down the liquors of solitude
this light on your wrist
is always ample and exquisite
for the certain feast you have
dug for and deserved.


Stephan Torre has been published widely in the u.s. and Canada. His last book, Man Living on a Side Creek (1994), won New York University's Bobst Award; and a new book, Iron Fever (2003), was published by Lost Horse Press. He lives in the northeastern California Great Basin, and works as a counselor and mediator.



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