Robert Nordstrom has published fiction, essays and poetry in numerous state and national literary publications. His poetry has won several awards, including second place and honorable mention in the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Triad contests and several honorable mentions in the Hal Grutzmacher Literary Contests. His poem “Old Lovers” won the 2014 Hal Prize. His poetry collection titled The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press) was published in 2015. To learn more, visit www.RobertNordstrom.com.
The night I peed out the cabin window
from the top bunk at Camp Miakonda,
my scoutmaster, as pissed off as I was pissed out,
dropped me and my sleeping bag
like a recalcitrant puppy
next to the newly wet upon leaves.
The 1950s—little protection from a scoutmaster
with little patience for a little shit
with the temerity to interrupt his intimate moment
with a Camel at the fire pit.
Or, for that matter, from a clueless mother who
figured her son needed a new kind of scouting experience,
so dropped him like sin
into a Good News Club basement to
sing songs, memorize scriptures,
work through exciting Bible lessons
using colorful materials,
the flyer said.
Don’t remember a thing about Good News
other than the bad news of having to go.
Puberty has its own lesson plans:
like peeking out the dining room window,
peanut butter and jelly sandwich in hand,
to watch my older brother seduce
the next door babysitter,
or standing in a dark hallway as Mother
cupped and lifted her naked breasts to the mirror
one night when I got up for a glass of water,
or appraising my Good News den mother’s family
in a front row pew at church,
father, mother, unmarried knocked-up daughter
still and straight as pitchforks
in my newly artful eye.
*** In The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press, 2015). First published in The Comstock Review.
My dog’s a liar and she isn’t very good at it.
Chin resting on her paws, she looks up at me
with her cartoon-cute eyes as if to say—Who me?
I have no idea what happened to the cracker.
But I’m not falling for her mendacious ways.
The soup cracker on the table was there
when I left the room and gone
when I returned. She has no alibi,
no sentient ravenous being to blame
so we lapse into a meltdown stare down,
which I know I’ll win because she,
like her peers, can’t bear confrontation
unless prepared to do something about it—
and she isn’t.
I step outside and light a cigarette.
This morning I told my wife I had quit
for good. Looked her dead
in the eyes and said—that’s it.
She smiled sweetly and gave me
a patronizing pat on the shoulder.
I flip my butt deep into the ferns
and go back inside. Dog lies
in the same spot, cracker
on the floor under the table
not two feet from her quivering nose.
Shameless, I pat her head,
*** In The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press, 2015). First published in Rosebud.
Saved by a Law of Physics
Just as I Am—
this haunting hymn
pricked my childhood
like a doctor’s needle,
corralled my adolescent hormones
into a pen of penitence and doubt
that finally lifted me off the pew
and up the aisle
just as I was
when I was twelve years old.
The man kneeling next to me said
just invite Him in and be cleansed
by the Blood of the Lamb shed for me:
A new boy
………..bound for glory
this time outside his mother’s womb.
What superhero aficionado could resist
such miraculous and transformative power
though he and He and I
did not count on that
cleavage placed strategically by Satan
two kneelers down
or my parent’s triumphant smiles
in the car on the way home
or my best friend’s plans for a shoplifting orgy
of squirt guns and yo-yos the morning after
or that incontrovertible law of physics stating that
every action requires an equal and measurable reaction.
*** In The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press, 2015). First published in Miller’s Pond.
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