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The Alternate Poetry Movement

honourable mention
2003 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry

In the Long-Cold Forges of the Earth

Douglas Nicholas

They say down on the street
there's poison in the holy water,
they say all the hospital locks are burst up on the violent ward,
they say you can lean in at the squad car window
to buy your drugs, they say that Vinnie died
just from breathing the air

Heart like a mirror, heart like a desert,
tell me the way the world will take
here on the forked and shadowed road,
heart like a thorn hedge,
heart like a well

I was just dreaming that the wings of charity
beat in a shimmering rush in among the circling flocks of pigeons
all along the avenue, I was just dreaming
that golden justice was seeping like groundwater
into the courthouse basements, I was just dreaming
that good and ill were thrashing in contention
deep in the pit of the human heart
and that slowly the red dragon began
to tread down the white worm of evil

On the street they say the high sheriff
pimps for his two small sons, they say
the cyanide in the baby's food
was put there on orders from the factory foreman,
they say the Chaplain General
runs a school for torturers, they say
that from the cargo doors of government planes
bitter powders are leaking
to be whirled away in the Santa Ana

Heart like a spyglass, heart like a jailhouse,
tell me the way the world will take
here on the twisting rain-slick highway,
heart like a padlock,
heart like a sail

I was just dreaming that I heard the shiver of the thundering subway
moaning in the bones of my building,
and this is what it said:
The anvil of virtue is uncovered, love begins to smolder
in the long-cold forges of the earth

I was just dreaming that I heard
Arthur sit up on the rough-hewn couch of stone
amid the startled chittering of the bats,
staring at the blue slate walls,
working the stiffness from his strong right hand
oh won't you be mine? 15.Feb.2004 00:17

migratory bird

Bill this is my electronic
valentine to you
if you saw it it would be like a sand painting
set to real life demensions,
it would be a sunset
against church rock
it would be the
the woodpecker
hiding in the cactus tree
it would be the ocean sliding up to kiss
the cactus flower
it would be
an electronic mind set free...

taking flight-
migratory bird