That’s Me Smiling in the Back Row

By Elton Glaser

Featured Image: The Parthenon by Frederic Edwin church, 1871

The day warms up fast,
Like leftovers in a microwave, odors of dawn
Still rising from the dead lilies,
From dry grass bleached to blonde and now
Heading toward platinum.
In the slow burn of midsummer,
The nose takes you where the mind won’t go.

There’s bad juju all over the place.
Light clings like cellophane
To the limp leaves. Nothing will budge
That carpet of shadows on the back porch.
I’m watching a spider
Rappel from the blades of a broken fan.
Somebody needs to fix it soon,
Somebody who knows how to work a miracle
With Juicy Fruit and a steak knife.

Not a ripple of wind.
Even science, with all its laws and numbers,
Can’t keep the gasses
From poking through the ozone.
But what did you expect, living here
In a universe of holes and rubble?
The sun sweats down on me
Like a short-order cook sizzling over
A burger and a side of fries.

I should build myself a white gazebo
With a La-Z-Boy in the middle
And wait for a breeze to blow through.

I should drink cool juleps
Until the heat gives way
To that shoeshine of a moon, the stars
Like a scatter of nickels and dimes,

That hour when today’s already
More tomorrow than now,
When it’s time to take out again
The album of love and losses, photographs
Coming unglued, peeling away
From everything I felt.

Here’s one at the beach, salt waves
Rinsing my skin. And here’s another where I stood
Among the ruins, in an August long ago,
Shimmer of air around the stones.
And that’s me in the last row, second from left
At some ceremony no one remembers,
With a lopsided smile and a cowlick,
Staring hard into the future
Before all these tired years stare back at me.


Elton Glaser has published eight full-length collections of poems, two of them in 2013: Translations from the Flesh (Pittsburgh) and The Law of Falling Bodies (Arkansas), winner of the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize.        

Originally appeared in NOR 17

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