Poems by Robert Penick


“God doesn’t plant in straight rows.”
– Matthew Haughton

You show up at the door,
full of opiate and promise,
hold your brand-new heart out
like a broken oyster shell and
tell me about your thirty days
of sobriety.

I know you’re lying, can see
it in the dilated pupils,
the hopeful, empty smile,
your hands busy weaving
the story you tell.

It’s okay. I love you.
We’re all doing the best we can.

Lord knows there’s nothing else
left to do.


This is the 17 th of October.
Not on the calendar, but for you.
You’ve flown through fifty years
of cheap beer, fellatio from
hausfraus, DUIs with no fatalities,
and no woman who ever said
“I love you” and meant it
for very long.

Tonight the radio plays something soft,
a sonata to massage your soul.
You sift the mail, find it all sand.
Not even the chip of a diamond
here on your private beach.
Another week has passed since you last
surveyed your animus and ambition
only to find both lacking.

This is the 17th of October
and the leaves fall now like the scales
from your eyes. You struggle to focus,
like a 19th century photographer trying
to catch Pegasus above the ground,
snapping a thousand shutters closed,
finally getting it right
in the very last frame.


Robert Penick’s work has appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, and Plainsongs. He lives in Louisville, KY, USA, with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon.  More of his work can be found at http://www.theartofmercy.net/


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