Three Poems

by  Chuck Von Nordheim

Multimillion-Dollar Arsonist Confesses to San Bernardino Sheriff

Great Grandpa said Sutter’s Mill wasn’t why they called this state golden
Blame it, he said, on the drought yellow of California’s tumbleweed tracts
Then throw in the singed chaparral Sierra run off could have made green
Before city men dug a cement gully to drain the last drops of our wet hope

Same wet hope made Grandpa’s face sweat slick when fraudsters promised
Twenty-percent returns on half-acres of baked desert after the airport went in
They threw in no-cost doc prep and free title fees to earn his greenback faith
When bank men grabbed the ranch, red-stained walls were his last act of grace

Blood wine irrigated Dad’s life after that tragic ricochet shut the tuition spigot
Whittled from farm boy to city slob by this state’s greed for a poor man’s gold
At the cash flows of insurance men, he threw math meant to gauge green growth
He saved his estate the cost of a parting shot when stroke broke his brain’s canals

I swapped fluids for flames, my one hope to harvest some green from grandpa’s acres
A last-ditch ploy derived from Dad’s legacy, his one work benefit, complete coverage
What do I mourn? Maybe the Marvel comics left boxed in my double wide when I fled
As for the trust fund ski bums who now lack cabins, only fools build chalets in chaparral

T-Bond broker switches to woodland commodities

Unblinking camera eyes
peering from city nooks
aroused my predator
proximity alarm—
that between-the-shoulders
prickle half a million
years of pursuit by sly
carnivores has built-in—
invisible hunters
tracked the impressions
left in capitalist
spaces when my tongue lapped
Frappuccinos or my
teeth tore apart chicken
nuggets, the electric
spies gazed upon my sports
bar Crown Royal and Coke
posturing and Budget
Host mattress gyrations
Swipe by debit card swipe.

The surveillance pressure pushed
me off the grid—a realm
composed of conifer
shadows punctuated
by abandoned cabins—
their prying Google eyes
would have turned some uncool
kink against me if I stayed—
mocked the arousal caused
when pickups inserted
authentic raccoon tails,
outed my orgasmic
ungulate moos and bleats—
human animals bolt
when their secrets ignite.
I hide from the hidden.
I barter pine needles
now instead of selling
treasury bonds. Their tea
keeps souls autonomous.

boyfriend involuntarily committed after 36-hour standoff

I sighed and the wind blew
I dreamed and she fled
When my voodoo convinced lawyers to cast curses
When my karma caused cops to speak with bullhorns
Who can blame her for hiding her face?

I raise my hands and bullets fly
I laughed at snipers and the ambulance came
Yes, my aura powered the streetlights
Yes, I raised dead insects when I coughed
Who can blame her for hiding her face?

I tamped my emissions with a shroud of tinfoil
When my personality made her soul wilt
I reversed my gravity with a necklace of garlic
Yes, I said spells to melt the chains of our love
Who can blame her for hiding her face?


A northern Los Angeles County denizen, Chuck Von Nordheim lives where the land shifts from chaparral to desert. An Honorable discharge recipient, he marches with Iraq Veterans Against the War. A Grateful Dead devotee, he endorses the healing power of tie-dye. An MFA graduate, his work appears in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 5, November Bees, and San Pedro River Review.
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