Poetry: Todd Heldt


The evening hours grow hungry.
—JJ Jameson

You shiver like a string of chimney smoke
and wonder if  the wind is here to fold you
like evening papers thrown on doorsteps,
too urgent to wait until morning.

Trash scuttles in the gutters, and the city
clings like soot.  You remember a flower’s
bloom of red and its spread across the floor,
the stamp of your boots in the doorway.

If you find a new home you can wall up
the windows, eat what crumbs you can find,
let a backbone of dishes stack in your sink.
Talk to no one, but begin to pray.

The rooftops are an open mouth, and evening’s
stomach rumbles.  An el-train slashes the sky.
Dig the knife beneath your skin, cut the fat
from a lie, the first word from your hand.

After the Orange Alert

I love God’s foot, always threatening
to slam down on my house, leave me
twisted and splintered in war-torn
somewhere.  When I was ten I learned
to ignore the preacher and read
Revelation to feed my need for the ugly—
burning buildings, wrecked cars.
All of it our fault, and God’s hug
so clumsy it could crush us.

That was the real show, wasn’t it,
what we were all in line to see?
And isn’t love only good when it’s
desperate, or when everyone hates you
except the one woman willing to open
her belly for you, or the man who offers
his chest as a pillow. This is why
I am ecstatic about the prospect of war,
that a building could crumble on top of me.
At last, love is not abstraction, terror
is color-coded, the world is as ugly
as me and my red, red heart.