Post Road Magazine #10

Two Poems by John Colburn

in sales

with a briefcase full of
things you’ve forgotten the names for
walk the holy land
it is a pilgrimage
giving the leg, taking it away
giving the leg, taking it away

and soot must fall at last on all
things you’ve forgotten the names for
as you
walk the holy land

one two three

steam is inner knowledge
the chief element of prayer
and soot must fall at last

how is it possible to stop moving
become cash
reflect your sins

in sales, when
people tell you to draw an elephant
you draw a pretzel
& convince them it’s an elephant

these are the fill-in-the-blank hours

giving the leg, taking it away
giving the leg, taking it away
a bad case of grip the handle
a superhero has special powers,
like the ability to sell
wires repeat the name mary
I’ve forgotten the name for
things that repeat

one holy man says
your drug of choice may be flowers or cash or steam

I am in sales. I recite
closed or open
cash or credit

followed by a continuous prayer one two three

I’ve forgotten the name for pretty things
sewn in stripes
all my stick children are named mary
for a few minutes each evening
I live in a circle
sniffing some glue
in clothes that have gotten larger all day

a salesman tries to draw continuous silence
on a pilgrimage
this is an outpouring of fill-in-the-blank grace

I try
to find the door-to-door dark
now it floats, now it doesn’t

try to find more blossoms in
things I have forgotten the names for
like one mad prayer
stretched across town
prayer #1:
now I wanna sniff some glue
now I wanna have something to do

I could sell you a name for
stacking mary’s flowers
sell you the names of things
that will happen after death

I have decided to live as a virgin
and with good credit and
with death which is stopping

a salesman walks through town
followed by a continuous silence

I accept my fill-in-the-blank punishment
the forgotten grip on
the circle I clean
giving the leg, taking it away

one holy man has forgotten the name for
painted lines in parking lots
leading to salvation

one two three

A superhero tries to understand

I have forgotten the name for
silence in the hands continuously
it is a funny business
following the mind of property
the air is full of
things I’ve forgotten the names for
all the kids want
painted lines in parking lots
sniffing glue in the
door-to-door hours of salvation

does a salesman fulfill the essential condition of prayer?
you feel a hum answering you
one two three

prayer #2:
now I wanna be your dog
now I wanna be your dog

I am in sales. I recite.
what is holy is mostly sound

how is it possible
to convince people
it’s an elephant
giving the leg
it’s an elephant
taking it away

And I have forgotten the name for walking blindly
one two three
cleaning the circle

a salesman walks through town
followed by one two three stick children

When people ask for thirty seconds
of fill-in-the-blank prayer
I convince them,
it’s a young bird’s dream in my hands
it’s the continuous silence
in a crack through the earth
it’s a fill-in-the-blank-need

We all carry our equipment
into the door-to-door dusk
divine law permits the grip on the handle

if you are watching me
I have already rebuilt your interior life
if you are full of tricks
I say one two three
on the surface of your mind
if you have forgotten the names of things
I have them in my briefcase

with all my strength
I have forgotten the name for
the great museum of boredom in my body
the fill-in-the-blank need
I can not sell

prayer #3
should I stay or should I go
should I stay or should I go

A great force holds things down
it makes you tired
where no one can see
one two three

still another blocked door
upside down at the bottom of a prayer
maybe you have a tin one
when you smell
cash blossoming in the storefront reflection
I say
pluck it

I say
the song jingle bells has only four notes

sometimes on a pilgrimage
you can hear noises
without seeing anything move

in sales soot must fall at last
followed by the name for
the circle you clean
one two three
which is death

I have forgotten the name for
continuous silence in shop windows
which is salvation through interior life

a superhero tries
to carry what is holy
into the door-to-door dusk

you must not repeat
the name for things you didn’t know were there
the name for secrets inside a box
the name for little image on the wall

you must not
until I walk the roadside
with death which is the pretzel
which is the circle
one two three
it’s an elephant

past the bitter end

Everyone who kisses is going on a kissing spree.
Looks like the space between whirring helicopter blades.
You can make a lot more money saying yes
than saying no. In a twilight of underwater summers
the disease of kissing marches forward,
strumming our hamstrings slack.
Sometime in your life you will look at clouds

for the last time, and not know it is the last time.
Looks like the shape a kiss makes in your mind,
just before you lean your face forward. I don’t want
my aristocratic side to leak into my kissing face,
but it might happen. You make an appointment
to kiss the back of your hand, for practice.

5 PM. You show up, promptly, and start
kissing yourself. A cloud passes over your
kissing spree. Is this the last cloud? Is this the
last kiss? Your face claims a manifest destiny
over your hand. The face says yes, the hand
says yes, the money rolls in. Think of someone
you’ve stopped kissing. You didn’t know the last
time was the last time. Now lean your face forward
and kiss me like that. Saying yes yes yes. Like
helicopter blades, ripping apart the clouds.




John Colburn is originally from Mantorville, Minnesota, and is an editor and copublisher at Spout Press. His chapbook, Kissing, was published by Fuori Editions in 2002. His poems have also appeared in such journals as Jubilat, Black Warrior Review, Spinning Jenny, Columbia Poetry Review, Forklift OH, and Swerve.

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