Literary Yard

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‘So much for pretty’ and other poems by RC deWinter

By: RC deWinter

so much for pretty

i don’t want to wake up with a pretty man
someone in love with his looks

pretty men are fine for those who like them
smooth and urbane and hollow
all greased up with the slick of clever
emotions a quarter inch thick

what would i do with a pretty man?
sit at his feet and admire him?
not with the life i’ve lived

give me the man who has lived a life
that has marked him for all to see
proud with lines of sorrow and strength
the sooty scars of outrageous fortune
are nothing to be ashamed of

i’ve got to know when the floor disappears
we’ll be falling together to land on our feet
cats with nine lives and then some

give me the warrior who’s survived
give me the rough and tumbled and tested
i have been tested too

i’ve crawled through the foxholes of hell
and come out strong in one piece
all the pretty scraped off
exposing my core

show me the man who admires this
he won’t be pretty but he’ll be mine


the big if

if i had my life to live over again
i would have run away
and taken my chances on the open road
rather than stay to be the unknown swan
in a brace of very ugly ducks

if i had my life to live over again
i would have danced barefoot with abandon
in all weathers on that open road
rather than stay to be made to kneel
on stones ’til my knees bled

if i had my life to live over again
i would have learned to love
the blackeyed face in the mirror
instead of looking – always looking – for flaws

hang on
scratch all that whiny crap

if i had my life to live over again
i wouldn’t be sitting here
telling you about it
i’d be out there doing it


How We Dance

The orchestra, dressed in the usual crisp tuxedos and stylish black dresses, is remarkable
only for the masks covering their faces from the bridge of the nose to just above the chin.
They sit in the round on a revolving stage, chairs arranged in official, prescribed distance.
The lips of the wind section peek out from small slits in those masks.

Overhead, lights twinkle in a sea of black silk like so many stars trapped in a tar pit sky.
When everything is arranged we’re called, one at a time, from our carrels, then escorted to
a carousel of individual glass cages in which we’ll dance, mannequins spun round and about, changing partners we never touch in an elaborate whirl of individual formality.

When everyone is securely enclosed the music begins. Violins stutter over the warm embrace of cellos as we bow and curtsy, arms extended as if holding each other in the intimacy of a waltz. Each revolution introduces another smile, another pair of eyes, as the orchestra plays familiar pieces we remember from our dancing school days.

We know we’re the lucky ones. Most will never hear a live orchestra or dance with a partner
unless it’s someone with whom they share the space to which they’ve been assigned. And while it’s true money can’t buy happiness, it smoothes the edges of privation in a world where unsullied air is the most precious commodity now that breathing safely is a solitary activity.


the clincher

at first i wasn’t sure
i’d ever want you
for all kinds of reasons
some to do with you
some to do with me
but tonight
you dropped the bluff
and showed me something real
that touched me in all the places
that really count
i heard it in your voice
it wasn’t passion
or anything like that
you probably don’t even know
what i mean
and i’m not sure i can explain it
but you finally struck the match
that lit a fire
now all i want to do
is wrap myself around you
and hold on for dear life


holding pattern

when life’s savage fists
rained blows so hard
i couldn’t breathe
i unzipped my spine
and inserted a rod of iron
to prop me up

stand strong
i told myself
no giving up
no lying down

so i stood strong

i weathered hurricanes
and blizzards
broiling sun
and long cold nights
wearing blinders
iron rod intact

i kept on
not moving
not changing
not feeling
head high
back straight
nothing touched me

i don’t know how long i lived –
or rather existed –
in that invisible coffin
then the earth inexplicably shifted
and i awoke
as from a long dreamless sleep

i could feel my heart beating
feelings reconstituted
from resurrected memories
music flooded my brain
and suddenly i wanted to dance

i could not dance
i could not lift a foot off the ground

looking down
i saw that every hurt
every sorrow
every ugly thing i wanted to forget
had taken root
grown up around me
coiling impossibly thick
while i slept
standing in that cold and narrow box
i called strength

i thought my prison strength
but now
awake again
i recognize it for what it was

now like the tin man
trapped in the middle of nowhere
i must hope that someone
will happen by and free me


RC deWinter’s poetry is widely anthologized, notably in Uno: A Poetry Anthology (Verian Thomas, 4/2002), New York City Haiku (NY Times, 2/2017), Cowboys & Cocktails: Poetry from the True Grit Saloon (Brick Street Poetry, 4/2019), Nature In The Now (Tiny Seed Press, 8/2019), Coffin Bell Two (March 2020), in print in 2River, Adelaide Magazine, borrowed solace, Call Me [Brackets], Door Is A Jar, Event, Genre Urban Arts, Gravitas, Kansas City Voices, In Parentheses, Meat For Tea: The Valley Review, Night Picnic Journal, Nightingale & Sparrow, Pink Panther Magazine, Prairie Schooner,Reality Break Press,Southword among many othersand appears in numerous online literary journals.

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