Chalk Level


Once the penguin appears from his foiled teepee
Navigating the pervious rocks
Of dried tributaries, you stop burning
With emphasis to wake up

From this elderly world of disparate parts
Made up of the harder building blocks
And submerged theories
That carry those battery acid
Kind of numbers; and so on

It was the best of times, the worst of times
Through the poisonous shrubberies
Towards the clearest chapter of the nightmare
That should have been a dream, but turned to be

The near and dreary future in which mystery
Would stream in motor pools
Some of which can be found here
Where your voice is pitchy
From kissing frogs week after week.
It must have felt like Armageddon and the Apocalypse
All rolled into one!

Now that would be horrifying, suffering the consequences
Of the kiss
Without any upswing or outburst
Knowing that

In the least likely places, gypsy store fronts
After a rain storm,
It’s the glow of old photography that counts

And drives you across the rickety bridge
While beneath you, a celestial being
Is popping balloons.




So you bought a headlamp, begged
for detachment then slipped into the subversive.
        Don’t be such a dud. I, too, pined for the helical tusk
of the narwhal. However, my theme song got old, I couldn’t quit clicking my tongue.

Upon reentering the world, I dove into an emptiness that shattered

my green age. For days, former things glistened and passed without feeling.
        To recover I discussed antimatter with abuse-counselors, admitted my sole
ambition was to mount the highest pile
of sawdust while wearing the cover of a yeti. This was expected and frowned upon.

But if you do (by chance) break from the maw of that cave, I’ll offer

only a towel, a pack of cigarettes along with the best course
        of action, which is to cram your mouth with cotton and nod
with conviction for some time. If speak you must confess you are confused,
incapable of being honest with yourself, but have found worth in your wounds.



Sharp Angles


I spend a lot of time in icy puddles,
brawling with an angel, a foul-mouthed

tobacco-dripping scrapper who takes life
by the sawed-off barrel. You can almost

hear the click before he pumps me full of lead.
It is almost beautiful, like stirring upon a ledge,

the horizon between fried and scrambled.
It is almost beautiful—like walking in April

but with broken legs, to what might be
my last measure of rest.


* * *


Eric Helms holds degrees from Furman University and Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He works at Columbia University and is an editor for Redheaded Stepchild. His latest work can be found in American Athenaeum, Death Hums, Souvenir and Blunderbuss.

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