Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Stray Bullet’ and other poems by Doug Van Hooser

By: Doug Van Hooser


Stray Bullet

In Chicago
stray is not a dog with sad eyes
It’s not a bar ribbed cat
meowing at your door
It’s a piece of harm
that tears flesh
and splatters lives
A Chicago omelet of handguns
heroin and hate
served on shattered pain of glass
A drive by on the walk home from school
The guns honk
The bullets wave
Books scatter like shell casings
The city’s finest a dark blue hue
Their badges glint in the sun
winking like a deaf uncle
blind as black on black
Everyone in the neighborhood
plays Chicago lottery
hoping never to win


hollow sound

I’m sorry for your loss and
thank you for your service
are two old people holding hands
The days of their bodies grappling
wrestling to a pounding burst lost
The message nestles in the shade of insincerity
Truth hidden like the sun drowns in the painted horizon
Blind approval stares like a holstered gun

A dull knife’s edge does not cut
needs to be sharpened on syllable stone

Loss is a winter that silences all birds’ songs
The cold whistles against my doors and windows
Sacrifice is a ritual few practice
and many adore as someone else’s child

Thanks Albert

I just read an old Albert Goldbarth poem
I wonder how many ways I can perforate
my life the way he does his
The poem’s about turning fifty
a milestone as a millstone
He’s older now aged prime beef
still moored in Wichita
tied to piers of words
He writes junkyard poetry I love it
So many two-sided notions scattered about
as if truth can be recycled
But that’s the problem with today
it turns into yesterday and matters as much as a mud puddle
I think Albert enjoys mud puddles as much as me
You can never tell how deep they are
Sure you guess but do you dare step in it
Well sure if there is someone next to you you can splash
You you that’s interesting the double you
You heard it and thought does a woodpecker sing
or only beat his head to get what he wants
I realize I am rambling like a tumbleweed tries to spread seed
I wish I could trust the wind
but that’s the point of a knife
to cut away whatever is holding you back
Sealed in the envelope by your own tongue
Let me make a list and hang it on the laundry line
where the wind and sun stiffen sheets without the whitening bleach
which in sleep makes my dreams itch
Most of the time scarcity creates value
But Sir Albert you wield a jewel encrusted sword
that knights the page
books weighted with the crushed remains
of many days
This is not a tribute
It’s a toast

May you fumble metaphors but still score


I dwell on the asterisks
people who contributed
footnotes to my autobiography
a slim boring volume blank
as a Wisconsin ink black night
I wonder
am I ever a shooting star
across the page in others’ books
does the spine fall open to the chapter
never finished
that tails off like a trail
winds in the woods
over hills around fallen trees
stumbles on stumps
stubs a toe
tries to grasp breath
quiet the alarm clock thump
in the chest

I won’t admit
the footnotes are thieves
that steal my thoughts
like a hummingbird darts
from corolla to corolla
the taste of nectar
intoxicates me
I tumble down the stairs
into the womb
of all the still births

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