James Lineberger

American Poems

American Pie

They ran out in the street
in front of me
two Huck Finn types headed for
a morning’s adventure

It was
the smaller one I hit, a terrier more
or less, with a black spot
on its side, a female too, and a follower,
safe here, she’d be
thinking, with her protector, a leggy red

part-setter part-other things, but a dear friend,
surely, a decent guy, her next-door
neighbor, always good for a laugh, always up
and out before she’d had
her breakfast or said good morning to the old
man she lived with, who sometimes
forgot to open the door until she’d scratched
the grooved
paint to remind him it was time, and today

was worse
than usual (she’d told
her friend) couldn’t even get the old guy out
of bed until she let go her manners
finally, and barked out loud to tell him what was

but now it was this, lying by the curb all
broken up inside, staring at the blurred elm
in the front yard, leafless,

and her friend still on guard
in the street, stiff-legged, his nose
lifted and quivering
as the salt-rusted car glided
away like a dark barge low in the water, headed

down to Natchez
to unload the whiskey or grain or whatever
they’re hauling nowadays,
the pilot’s eyes
framed in
the wheelhouse mirror,
burning, the past
trailing off
behind him in the Big Muddy
dead as Paris
or Miss Kitty, dead as all

of Georgia,
and the last
thing I saw before I turned off onto Kerr
Street was the old man
himself hobbling out to the scene
crying No No No No
and the terrier’s friend
around in circles
yapping like crazy this

is crazy
the red thinks get
up come on now we gotta get out of here
before he makes you go

but by the time
I’m back home to tell about
it, rehearsing excuses
for not stopping (wrong
tag, no insurance, my fear of cops, queers,
close encounters) Donahue
is already half
over with and some
paraplegic woman is trying
to put her arms around
the daughter she left on a stranger’s

years ago, speaking
to the camera like it was
a person, saying don’t hate me
you think I want
people to see me like this why
can’t you
understand, what I did I did it
because I don’t
know why


I read a cowboy piece once
about bobwahr about how it had a mind and feelings
of its own and how
it resented calves and people and thought
of blackberry thorns as kin
shit like that
and yes shit like that is definitely stupid
but what is certain
is the scar I got from the stuff when I was eight
years old such an ancient
scar now that most of the time I forget I even have
it until one of those days
when I find it in the mirror and touch the thing
how the years went by so fast and there it is
still hanging there
like the dark corner of a gibbous moon
as familiar, as faraway as childhood itself and jesus
it may not can think but if you’re running
one way
and looking back the other and you turn into it at just
the exact wrong moment
the goddamn motherfucker can gouge you with its bobs
and make you scream worse than the worst enemy
you ever had
worse even than the matinee when you were ushering in the *colored*
balcony at the old Cabarrus Theatre
and one of them came at you and damn near stomped
you to death
well fuck death if death
was so bad you wouldn’t say death where is yr sting
you’d say o where is yr bobsDivider Line

Does No One at All Ever Feel This Way in the Least

Stark Young
sd Frost
wd take the prettiest Amherst
freshmen to his decadent
drenched candlelit homo abode
on Amity St
and read them dirty books
aloud in the hope that some aroused
swain would get
excited enough to butt-fuck him or at least offer
a pulsing hunk of frosh
meat to cram
down his throat
Frost sd
hoping to get his colleague fired but when pressed
cd never come up with the facts
and at any rate wd never drop his Puritan
mask to say anything
so explicit to Pres Meiklejohn
nor reveal to anyone (not even the pun-loving
the „stark crazy“ finis
to his recurring dream where the brazen
Young wd walk up close
to him on the st and pass him candy
from his pockets
so foxy
about his desire that Frost wd awake
with a gasp hd as a rock
his cum gushing hot and melan-
down the back
of his snoring Elinor’s


More complex
and detailed than any
dream they come
tumbling forth, glowing like
some of them, or hanging
black in the water
as motionless as trout while
others float
by overhead like debris in
the stream, and now
and then, as if to point up
really significant, the camera
moves in and holds
on some frozen blurred
thing, your horse
in a photo finish, let us
say, but when you
ask Am I the winner?
Is it me?
the lathered
maiden dissolves to Christ’s
face drifting
away over some evergreen-
lake in Wisconsin, and don’t
forget the stupid
cornucopia that appears every
time, spilling
out its contents in grand
or the cup that runneth over
and over, or the woman
in stiletto heels
on a polished oak bar, Janis
Joplin, maybe, at the old
El Quixote,
but who can say, for the whole
is like dropping
in at some stranger’s house
and every time
you ask his name, or try
to find out what town you’re
in, the fool just
smiles and goes on eating his
peaches, while
his wife, who refuses to
join you or say
anything in the slightest,
stands by
the fire, her back to the table,
to all
of us, dreaming her own
dream of
a mud-chinked cottage in a book
she read once
as a child, where the people
really did
till the fields and go to
in big horsedrawn wagons
and Farmer
Olaf would lift his rosy-
cheeked Anna
down to the plank sidewalk
saying in
big block letters Now we buy
Gingham Now we
buy tobacco my beloved Now
we dance

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