Four Poems

by Robert Perry Ivey

Bocca Della Veritá

There is a 26,000 pound face, a 2,000 year legend:
an angry, horn-bearded god who gapes his mouth open,
threatening to bite off liars’ hands.
“Stick them in that toothless scream, tell a lie
and the truth-god will eat your hand,” tour guides say. 

You have to stop believing in this kind of magic;
that mouth won’t bite fibbers’ fingers.
Plenty of lovers have filled that hole;
they might have come out with a virus or a bacterial infection,
but when couples lie, “I love you,”
they didn’t get their hands chopped off by some
Old Testament-looking, cannibalistic, fat-face.

Maybe they did once, or more likely
there was a man behind the curtain, a politician pulling strings,
a toad-bellied, guff-flinging swine,
making peasants confess their sins and tax evasion,
their working class hands in the Mouth of Truth
while a unseen Roman soldier stood hidden,
waiting to drop the axe at the downward thumb of some asshole Caesar. 

And while we’re at it,
the Sphinx didn’t tell riddles and kill people.
It’s just a damn rock.
There was always some sagely, nasally bastard,
concealed in the, shouting through a megaphone.
Ramses’ men just got mud-stuck when a big tide rolled back in,
the Wizard of Oz is just a sad old man missing his momma,
and all Presidents are Pinocchios pretending to be real live boys.

But, there is magic in the world, baby girl.
There is a picture of your mother and me
with our fingers locked in that marble maw, saying, “I love you.”
And like us, three million lovers have recited the same lines,
fear twinging in their fingertips at the idea of Frigian fangs,
eating their truths and lies, and not one is missing so much as a fingernail.
Millions have gone back across entire oceans and continents,
loved and married, made children, and bored them with photos.
There is magic in that, baby girl, the most powerful kind.   

3rd Grade Oral Report on the Vietnam War

Walking Man walking.
He walked 40 days and nights like Jesus in the Vietnam.
Daddy say he still there.
Daddy say he got the PSTD,
Daddy say he does a push up when a car back fires
and shoots at people with a pine stick.
He guards the little old ladies when they lock up the beauty shop at night.
They should put up a statue of him on town square.

Daddy says he lives in a sunk in,
crazy crooked, dilapidated trailer
set diagonal on the south side of a left hand hill,
his stove is a gutted out washing machine,
his cook fire burns copper some nights
like a green ghost in the woods.

Daddy say everybody gets rich off war
but the folks fighting and their people back home.
I heard Walking Man say he wanted to walk off into the woods
and never come back.
Daddy say they got a Chair Man in Thomaston;
he pulls a chair up and down the street all day.
Daddy say they got a Walking Man in Forsyth
and Barnesville too, and when Iraq is over,
we gonna have a Walking Man in every town there is, and now
we fighting the war on terror,
there’s gonna be a Walking Men for ten thousand (10,000) years.

When I grow up,
I wanta be a Walking Man too,
so I can walk 40 days and nights in the desert
like little lord baby Jesus and walk off into the woods
and never ever come back to school again.

GRADE F

First Poem

The tribesman kept kneeling,
kept kneeling over tracks,
like rows of two by two teardrops in the mud.
He studies these, his own footprints,
looks back the way he came,
sees symbols of passing and going as old as earth’s ebb,
and swears he sees the first story written.

His brothers sniff wind,
continue on, and when he sees prints
like lopsided clovers join the mud-story,
hairs on his neck stand. He tries to warn them,
but there is no sound for it.
His lips move what syllables he has:
squeals and grunts say nothing.
The sidebrush shakes
and his brother grows a throat-hole
from the beast leaving tracks.

Everyone runs, he hears it gorge his kin,
his eyes say menace, and he patiently
follows its fat belly sway.
The beats grows a throat-spear,
and he brings back meat to the tribe,
grabs a stick like the one used to let the great cat’s air.
wears the clover-beast’s spotted head,
chases his brothers around the fire,
paints the cave wall with blood,
gnashes his teeth, makes motions with hands.
The others cover their ears,
see only parted teeth and jaws.
When he traces prints in the river sand,
they stomp their feet, kick dirt over his story
again and again for years.

He teaches his son as the elk and beast
taught him in the mud-story.
They hunt together, kill the great throat beasts
of their basin with gut growl words,
make names for trees and wind
that sound of water rushing, whistle sharp
the scream of places where jagged rocks split sky.
He dies. The son does
what the father could not,
he finds words, and runs his fingers
on the lips of the tribe.

Weight

Recently, the relationship between man and god has grown
awkward, like a bromance gone way to far,
two straight men after a homosexual experience—
both drunk on creation’s wine,
they danced, they kissed,

they slept together, and, in the morning,
they retched. Their heads swim in the pain of a broken rib.
Depression kicks in and now they want no true discourse,
at least god doesn’t anyway
with them in their separate houses, contact
only through a mediator of their own making—
that is to say
when man’s wife drags him to church,
and god and man regard each other uncomfortably,
in absolute silence
both knowing how often man has called
and received no answer after the “incident.”

Then, boundaries become unfixed,
man makes his own creations to fuck up
and forget, and man has always been slow to change
like filling canyon rifts with spoons of dirt
and a punishment stone
weighs heavy on his chest,
remembering lover above body.

 


Robert Perry Ivey, from Forsyth/Macon, GA, is a Lecturer at Gordon State College and was the Visiting McEver Chair of Poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) from 2012-2013. Ivey has earned a M.A. in English Literature from Georgia State University and a M.F.A from Sarah Lawrence College in Creative Writing. He is the author of the chapbooks Southbound, and Letters to My Daughter, recipient of Academy of American Poetry’s John B. Santoianni Award, and his work has appeared in Java Monkey Speaks: A Poetry Anthology, Louisiana Review, Live Oak Review, Terminus Magazine, Blue Lyra Review, TYCA Southeast, and Negative Capability Press’s Anthology of Georgia Poets: Stone, River Sky. Ivey has been selected to contribute to a holocaust poetry anthology named The New Voices Project: Focusing on the Moral Lessons of the Holocaust through the Arts which will be published in 2019. Thomas Lux, Bourne chair of poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Guggenheim Fellow and three times a recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, stated this about Robert Ivey: “Ivey is the best young poet of (not just from) the South since the great Frank Stanford…Ivey’s long rolling lines are rich in detail: the whole range of what is human, and uniquely musical.”
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