THE ARENA
by Doug Bolling

Once More

Summer of 2018  along the Gulf.
Our journeys toward an undecided
Far off but strangely near.
The quickening winds from the south,
Touch of palm leaf against exploring flesh.
0ur voices sometimes taut as new wire
strung to keep out all impostors.
Sometimes almost musical as we
Learned to forget and imagine
A future.

 Far down as Tampico then the Yucatan
Before turning north to search again for
What we’d lost or misplaced in the years
Behind us. 0nce or twice we drowned
In gravity of memory before pulling
Up and away in saving force of
An unwritten calling out to be read.

We made a fire on a dozen beaches
And cooked from cans and fish
Caught on our improvised hooks.
We made love in folds of night wind
Fresh from the sea, imagined warmth
When a sudden chill looped in.

We are moments of flesh and soul
LaNita said as surf flooded close enough
To eat away our small flames.
We carve ourselves from niches
Of space and time and make words
Into poems that will speak and live
Awhile  as we.

 To the Unmarked Grave

I visit you once in autumn once
In spring each time bringing a leaf
Or petal. Each time finding the
Awkwardness in words as they
Stumble out of me into spaces
Ever changing.

You the forgotten or destitute
Scorned by whatever dignities
Of paid up arrangements.
Perhaps even the obligatory
Embalming job.

I tell myself I come to bear witness
To some remnant of humanity
Saying the dead must not be
Forgotten  whatever life dealt
Them, or didn’t.

0n rainy days I resolve to
give you a name or two,
one for each gender.
But the alphabet refuses to
Surrender such as though
It knows the barriers beyond
Which no letters can meld,
No grammar assent.

Winter Song

We knew him for all our years
But didn’t, not how he walked
In crooked fashion we couldn’t
Imitate. Not how he quoted the
Bible in a strange tongue or
Chased us away when the
First snow dropped.

This last winter when we climbed
Larch mountain to surprise him
In his shack of boards and leaky
Roof.

Found 0ld Bertram snug in his
Bed of bad smelling sheets and
A bear skin long from the hunt.

Found him sleeping the sleep
Nobody returns from, a scrawled
Note propped on top saying only

Gone and Well Forgotten.

The Arena

Somehow I signed up for the seminar
On Critical Theory.

Don’t know why or why. Just that
I did the summer term of 2015.

The prof had it down neat.
No compromises. No exceptions.

The self a fiction imagined in
The language games played
By all unsuspecting ones.

The words write the novel,
Not that myth called author.

We argued, debated, smoked,
A hundred packs of Camels
Or whatever, followed through
At the Brownout Bar down
College Avenue.

We were would-be writers
Dreaming of turning life
Into fiction for the ages.

At exam time we gave him
Back what he wanted
Hating our betrayal but
Needing the grade.

I remember thinking there
Might be a middle ground,
A distant place where
Words begin the game
And a solitary self
Manages to escape.

About the Author:

Doug Bolling‘s poems have appeared in Posit, Water-Stone Review, Isthmus, S/word, Poetry Pacific, And Common Ground Review among others. He has Received Best of the Net and Pushcart nominations And several awards and lives in the outlands of Chicago.

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