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Three Poems

PJ Blumenthal

Hans Baldung Grien’s Portrait of Young Philipp

The reflection of a moment
is what I am.
Strangers stop to view me,
stare into my eyes,
blue and glaring, I hear them say,
and celebrate my fresh virility.
My look is questioning, I’ve heard,
my answers muted for eternity.
You cannot read the thoughts
behind these eyes but be advised:
I wasn’t taught to be shy.
These ringed fingers you see
have been touched by kings,
have delved into the mysteries of state.
You may not know the name
of Master Philipp,
o Stranger. He be I.
A swain I was, a bonnie one,
a willing warrior, they tell.
I knew there was an America
but never saw the sea;
I loved and hated and killed,
went rank and swived and japed,
misused and pricked the quim
and taddied the lair
and prayed the Lord’s forgiveness
when lost in fallow fear.
O Stranger,
I am now where you shall be.
Chance and this painter’s eyes and hands
have given me a face.
And then came the poet
to speak these words for me.
Beyond that
there is little left of me to see.
Come, visit me.

Speeding a Life

My mother never spoke to me of this:
that once you’ve gone beyond temptation,
the man who wields the tools of your bliss
will soon become a sallow relation,
his fervor and yours turning to familiar kisses.

The children are grown,
he sleeps in his chair,
a book slipping from his loosening grip.
His head bobs, and you see his thinning hair.
Where is the warrior
who conquered my city?
His khakis are ripped,
his message self-pity.
And where is my fire? My fire?
It has turned into words.
I buy him his clothes and wash his socks,
and chide him when he disturbs.
And when he is dead
I’ll pile up rocks
for memory’s sake
atop his cold grave
and mourn those lost powers
now sealed in a box
celebrating that mystery forgone
of a few sweet days, a few sweet hours.

Mother You Ruined It for Me with the Girls

I took your hand in innocence,
you wouldn’t let it go.
You said, “See,
together we’re magnificent,
my son,
I shall not let you grow.”

Mother you ruined it for me
with the girls.
Sweet embraces
turn to disgrace
when I touch their pretty curls.

They stroke my hair,
and it is you I feel.
Nothing is real
but the sad fragrance,
the blighted seed unsown.

“Hold my hand,” you say,
but your nearness only leads
to further vagrancy: my own.

“Hold my hand
and I shall take you to the magic land
of passionate dependency.
Let us go.
I shall not let you grow.”

That is what you said,
and that is why I know
I’ve squandered any promise
of ascendancy.

That was the beginning of my distress.
Now I stumble through the grassy fields
and watch the others,
those who wield power in caresses
and reap the inheritance of lovers.

Who shall I be today, I think,
and gaze on the serpents intertwined.
I stroke one, I stroke another,
hunting for love and lovers,
always foraging for relief.

No, I do not find it.
Only hunger I find
and your vocal ghost,
o Mother.


PJ Blumenthal