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A poetic manifesto of sorts...

Why Poets Wear Black


from a poem by Josh Borgmann



You were right on one count:

Black is the only color in the world,


because inside that tub

on the watercolor strip, the block

with no white spot

in the middle, no scar

rubbed bald by loving brush,



every wavelength of light

from long red lines of peppermint

lolled slowly around the tongue,

to a quick whiff of violet

perfume on a warm brown wrist.

Most don’t realize


black and white

are the same shade

with different attitudes.  White catches


light on the pop fly and instantly

launches it toward home.  White explodes,


while black

sifts through the universe with a tin pail

clutched in both hands, considers

every red giant and gold

beetle wing, then presses

it all into the rarest of wines, the sweetest

distilled drop.  That’s why


poets wear black: we purify


life for the eye, so no locust shell,

no cobweb and no finger kissed

by rivulets of melting cherry vanilla ice cream

will ever be missed.


(First published in Schuylkill)

Some early work from my time at Iowa State...






I can’t make sense of it

cradled in my night-lit room

pink and thick as Pepto

Bismol    next stationed

in Mom’s laz-y-boy waiting

for Colonel Potter’s signal

Bug Out    the company topples

each tent like cake   ovens

dug in deep red soil    how

did I get here   my face betrays

11 p.m.    the parents’ hour

enshrined with guards at the stairs

the tv’s drowsy hum     well

Mom’s voice perches on my left

shoulder    you either walked flew

or rode a bus take your pick

AWOL from my post but Mother

only smiles   tents self-destruct

their flaps condensed

preparing to escape the guns

my body runs    outmaneuvers

mines   inside the mattress

a glass-eyed doll    the sleeping face

of parents   a remote site   no frame

to hang embattled skin    no bunker

for a fight


(First published in Schuylkill)



My Fears of Driving in Inclement Weather



where even PENNDOT’s Grade-A highways

leave you dangling like

Christmas before downward slopes,


feet punching pedals,

wondering at your ultimate travel

from Point A (Mountaintop)

from Point B (Valley Town, sprawled lazy,


a dozing football fan

on couch, beer in reach, throat guttering

the safe snore of the low).

I could never contain my panic


at the sight of buried

hills, road smeared white and grave

in my windshield.

I’d count tumbling flakes as final


seconds before

my headlights embraced a lamppost, pointing out

the end of me.




Iowa snowfall couldn’t be

more different.

Clouds sift out their load non-stop

like the fist


of  some old-time schoolyard bully.

Drivers are numb

to threats, their tires condensing what

no one bothers


to brush aside.  (My guess: wind

has already taught

its lesson, practicality.  Roadside piles

would only run


like milk.)  Instead of dreadful rosaries,

I curse each squall

that makes my fingers bleed and lock

while digging out


the car.  Twenty minutes late for a

twelve-thirty class

and I sputter streams of murder

at the substance


spinning my wheels.  Another blot

on my permanent

record.  None of my plans function.

Why can’t I be


more like that girl I knew in college

who made Summa,

went to Oxford, weighed 120 pounds,

and could twist


a flawless soft-serve cone. Behind her

in line at

the dining hall machine, I watched

her hands like


factories deftly wind a spring

when mine could

only work a fieldhand’s pump, spewing

runny cowpies into


my cone and over my sleeve,

and honestly

she already has the perfect GPA,

perfect body, perfect


hair, what fair universe for God’s sake

could grant her

the perfect ice cream cone?  I’ll bet

when she drives


over mountains in a blizzard, she shifts

to low and coasts,

a kid beaming on a sliding board,

and the weather is


Mommy’s ordering hand, makes sure

the bottom waits

in safety for her dreamy child’s return.




The snow like

cotton falls more densely, and I locate

my windshield brush,

ready to scrape.  I’m fooling no one.


Do I deserve

a life without struggle?  The wind has swept

a farmer’s field, leaving

dirty souvenirs to corrupt the snow.


A cold gust tears

my cheek’s capillaries as easy as blowing

sand from place

to place.  I struggle for corruption’s sake.


(First published in knotgrass)




The Sunday Before Easter



my grandmother emerged

through the red steel doors

of St. Paul's Methodist,

God’s Word secure in a clasped elbow.


Cousin Jeff, the latest thrall,

slumped in the curve

of her shadow, that dark lens,

while white pumps tapped him a path


over concrete and dust,

leaves long decomposed.

When the steward forgot to sweep,

she was the surest blind man’s cane.


(First published in the Black Water Review)

Jumping on the Internet bandwagon at last...