Original Poetry / Poetry / Uncategorized

Bloom Creative Writing: Four Poems by Jack Stewart

With these poems by Jack Stewart, we continue to highlight original fiction and poetry from writers who either published their first book at 40 or after, or who have yet to publish a book. Writers interested in submitting work should see our guidelines.

       Basquiat's Prayer    

 I cross out words so you will see them more.
                                    Jean-Michel Basquiat
Uneven crown, or maybe
a head on fire—if
people painted religious
art anymore, this
                     would be the pain
of Jesus, teeth 
clenched, body
and emaciated—this
                    would be the pain 
of Peter struggling 
for faith
in his moment of 
denial, eyes wide
in inescapable 
                     would be the pain
of Lot’s wife looking 
back and thinking 
of friends consumed
by the flames running 
up the sleeves
of their screams—
Oh, Basquiat,
born in poverty,
your clothing not as warm
as a shroud,
if only you had
painted a prayer,
perhaps one you mouthed 
when you were
a child,
                   and crossed it out,
how we would
read all we gave up 
                  but need,
your line separating us
from it—
line we long so hard
to cross.
When Words Fail
We have just met,
and he is proud of his wife’s
recent augmentation
and insists my wife
“give one a squeeze.” 
Is there a word
that articulates
our embarrassment,
any syllables to express
our reluctance to look
at the robin’s egg
turquoise pendant
nesting in her cleavage?
I have to tell this because 
when words aren’t enough, 
you have to search 
for them in narrative, 
as if they might
emerge like characters
who save the hero and heroine
and bring a moral 
to the story.
Private, incredulous 
laughter later won’t do it.
Neither Latin nor
German roots offer
Perhaps we receive
such as these
to understand
what makes us human is
knowing some things
are unsayable,
that we have absences
we’d give almost anything
to define.


Directions in Paris
You don’t need a map. No matter where you stand,
it is always the same: turn left at the statue
and right at the fountain. You will pass
a bakery and lingerie store, a wine shop
across the street. When you get to the café
on the corner, take the avenue that angles
to the left. (If you feel you might be lost,
ask the woman smoking by the park.)
When you hear police sirens, you are 
getting close. Where you are going is two doors
down from the woman walking her little dog.
(He is well behaved and does not notice you.)
Home is where you live inside several
centuries, the buildings not allowed to be built
as high as their ambition. Where the river
flows through the belt loops of the bridges.
In the museums, paintings gossip
with the guards. Every morning people hum
the national anthem of fresh bread.
Don’t you dream a city with few trash cans and less
trash, that worships jazz and does not paint
lanes on the roads? Everywhere tells you maps
are redundant. Everywhere tells you the sky,
whether bright or deepening gray, is meant for you.

The constellations are moth-eaten,
But I still have enough light
To make my way through
The dogwood darkness.
The cicadas burned out months ago
In the drought of their own songs.
The grass is black, 
Soft pavement going nowhere.
In a month, 
We will have enough cold 
That not even stalks of steam
Will rise after rain.
The air still pulses a little
With birds left over from summer.
Ducks sit like fat hearts in puddles.
We never get snow,
Even when winter is fully here,
Just a jacket of emptiness
Buttoned by nuthatches.
So much for the stars,
The ancient heroes
Now amputees
With an empty wheelbarrow.
That is a word you can give your heart to.
Red candle wax melts
Down the faces of the Muscovy ducks.
In the moss-gray dusk,
The moor hens dip their match-head beaks
In the water, searching
For grains
Of anything.
Petals of anything,
Even green mold in a crevice of bark,
Mean something was flowering
I’ll walk in that direction.

Jack Stewart, 62, was educated at the University of Alabama and Emory University and was a Brittain Fellow at The Georgia Institute of Technology. His first book, No Reason, was published by the Poeima Poetry Series in 2020, and his work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including PoetryThe American Literary Review, Nimrod, Image, and others.

(Photos, top to bottom: MJS/Unsplash; Ron Dylewski/Unsplash; author photo by Sherri Stewart)

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