SWIMMING TO THE MOON. A Poem by Steve De France

Tonight my fingers stiffly stumble across
my keyboard as my mind is repulsed,
as I am frightened of this task, as I am afraid
of the pain of thought., as my spirit fills & trembles
with the mystery in words.
Words that once flashed
in the eyes of the dying,
words that fade into a wet cough,
words brushing past the living
with silken lips as cold as marble,
their frightened gasps merge into darkness.
Ancient images tumble into my mind, I pass the
rough tips of my short fingers across my
damp forehead—very carefully as I
rehearse for my passage to the moon,
knowing all of us will have to make this swim
through skin and blood and memories.

 
 

steve-defrance
 
 
Steve DeFrance is a widely published poet, playwright and essayist both in America and in Great Britain. His work has appeared in literary publications in America, England, Canada, France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, India, Australia, and New Zealand. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry in both 2002 and 2003. Recent publications include The Wallace Stevens Journal, The Mid-American Poetry Review, Ambit, Atlantic, Clean Sheets, Poetrybay, Yellow Mama and The Sun. In England he won a Reader’s Award in Orbis Magazine for his poem “Hawks.” In the United States he won the Josh Samuels’ Annual Poetry Competition (2003) for his poem: “The Man Who Loved Mermaids.” His play THE KILLER had it’s world premier at the GARAGE THEATRE in Long Beach, California (Sept-October 2006). He has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Chapman University for his writing. Most recently his poem “Gregor’s Wings” has been nominated for The Best of The Net by Poetic Diversity. for further poems by Steve De France see www.artvilla.com & www.motherbird.com
 
 
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Speed. A Poem by Steve de France

 
 
One cloudy day in 1945, 
I played alone in a vacant lot 
across from the Central Hotel. 
Digging roads for my fire
engine. It was small, red, 
and made of cast metal. 
Suddenly, I saw my mother 
standing next to a man 
in uniform. She called to me. 
 
 
We were living in a cheap hotel
in Redondo Beach. 
The Central Hotel. 
Built in the twenties or so. 
Wooden fire escapes. 
Transoms. 
Bathroom down the hall. 
Filled with smoke, 
whiskey voices, 
coughing. 
Men and women fighting. 
Doors banging. 
People coming & going all hours…
 
 
I stood & shaded my eyes
from the sun glare. They walked across 
the street to me. 
 
“This is your father.”
 
He had medals on his chest. 
I stared at him, 
not comprehending. 
He grabbed me up like a bag of potatoes. 
Whiskers scraped my cheek. 
Beer breath frightened me. 
He toted me
into the Central Hotel. 
 
The war was over. 
 
I remember the smells. 
People cooking on hot plates. 
Fish, cans of hash, eggs, stew,
potatoes, onions, cabbage, coffee, 
anything & everything cheap. 
And then, there was the
hotel manager patrolling the halls. 
 
Looking for overdue rents. 
Maybe an open door to stare in. 
He smoked big cheap cigars. 
Chewed them till they were wet
then, he’d hock & spit. 
Usually he’d miss the open door
hitting the floor instead, 
the was followed by a 
“God Damn” or two. 
But
more powerful than all these odours 
was the stench of the mouldering
hallway carpet. That grease-stained, 
puke-beige carpet. It’s miasma
hung fog like in the halls. 
This night
For reasons I didn’t understand
I was forced to sleep alone
in our hallway leading to the bathroom. 
Here in the shadows, car headlights
seeped through diaphanous curtains
from Diamond Street, and threw
huge fantastic shapes of black 
and ghostly white on aged wallpaper. 
 
I cried. 
Until he came in a flood of light;
and spanked me till my butt burned. 
And then for the rest of the night, 
I breathed the stench of dead carpet
and listened to each night sound
walk by my hall window. 
 
 
I fell asleep, planning immortal revenge. 
Not long after this, my father, 
Speed disappeared forever.
 
 
His memory still hangs like a fog in my mind. 
 
 
little Steve

 
Steve De France is a widely published poet, playwright and essayist both in
America and in Great Britain. His work has appeared in literary
publications in America, England, Canada, France, Ireland, Wales,
Scotland, India, Australia, and New Zealand. He has been nominated for a
Pushcart Prize in Poetry in both 2002, 2003 & 2006. Recently, his
work has appeared in The Wallace Stevens Journal, The Mid-American
Poetry Review, Ambit, Atlantic, Clean Sheets, Poetry Bay, The Yellow
Medicine Review and The Sun. In England he won a Reader’s Award in Orbis
Magazine for his poem “Hawks.” In the United States he won the Josh
Samuels’ Annual Poetry Competition (2003) for his poem: “The Man Who
Loved Mermaids.” His play THE KILLER had it’s world premier at the
GARAGE THEATER in Long Beach, California (Sept-October 2006). He has
received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Chapman University for his
writing. Most recently his poem “Gregor’s Wings” has been nominated
for The Best of The Net by Poetic Diversity.

 
 
 

  robin@artvilla.com
editor@artvilla.com
 

 

SPRING RITUALS. Poem. Steve de France.

Dogs baying, howling. Men in a jeep.
Drinking beer. Pointing guns.
Shrubs cracking under wheels.
I’d seen them earlier today. Sitting in
their jeep. Shooting squirrels out of
trees. Blew ’em all apart. But I ran
till the forest was quiet.

Resting here beside a clump of dead
branches I hear dogs baying. They’ve
found me. They’re close. I hear shells
rattling into rifle breaches, bolts
jamming shells into firing position.
I’m running again.
Behind me a bolt slams down,
the popping crack of a gun,
the side of the tree next to me explodes.

I run hard.
Run with all my strength.
I leap over my trail & crash into
tree cover. But the jeep is rattling,
jerking itself through underbrush behind
me.

When I hit the stream
the coldness of water tears breath from
me. I stop for a second to regain
direction. A 30 bore bullet smashes my
flank, it’s like being clipped by a
truck. I’m down, then up and running.
Over there,
I see my fields golden in the sunset,
it’s my spot. I have to try for it.
Wildly with total concentration,
I run
Over bushes, brush past trees, knock
branches down, in my thirst to escape.
I’m moving now. Flying over earth,
my mind afire with the pain in my flank.
Now breathing coming hard.
What’s this? A strange taste.
Choking. Blood in my throat.
The ground rushes toward me.
Something going down.
I’m on the ground.
Breathing blood & foam from my mouth.
More burning, body going numb.
laughter.

Try to get up. Can’t.

Someone standing next to me.
A boot rolls my head over.
Didja hit em?
Twice.
Dead?
Yeah, deader ‘an hell.

He didn’t hit me. He couldn’t have.
No.
I’m still running, still alive.
I see my spot now.
It’s here. Tall grass. That good smell.
So tall.
All the way up to my shoulders.
But I don’t remember it being
so dark.

little Steve

Steve De France is a widely published poet, playwright and essayist both in
America and in Great Britain. His work has appeared in literary
publications in America, England, Canada, France, Ireland, Wales,
Scotland, India, Australia, and New Zealand. He has been nominated for a
Pushcart Prize in Poetry in both 2002, 2003 & 2006. Recently, his
work has appeared in The Wallace Stevens Journal, The Mid-American
Poetry Review, Ambit, Atlantic, Clean Sheets, Poetry Bay, The Yellow
Medicine Review and The Sun. In England he won a Reader’s Award in Orbis
Magazine for his poem “Hawks.” In the United States he won the Josh
Samuels’ Annual Poetry Competition (2003) for his poem: “The Man Who
Loved Mermaids.” His play THE KILLER had it’s world premier at the
GARAGE THEATER in Long Beach, California (Sept-October 2006). He has
received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Chapman University for his
writing. Most recently his poem “Gregor’s Wings” has been nominated
for The Best of The Net by Poetic Diversity.

***

  robin@artvilla.com
editor@artvilla.com