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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 29 — Jee Leong Koh, Jeff Walt

Jee Leong Koh

For Lonely

Lying on top of you, my arms and knees

support my body even as I grope

for how much of me your frame will carry.

You hold me closer, you’re not heavy. So

I lean a ladder into you, step hard

up, and clamber to the top window

to hear you play Chopin’s Etude in C

Minor. I enter through the window, drop

into your room. I sit down quietly.

You come to a passage hazardous and slow

like footsteps on decaying floorboards

of an old house. The pedal mutes the piano.

Then I become afraid you will not be

playing, beside me, with such quiet hope

forever, for nightfall, for lonely,

and what that will do to me. I tiptoe

to the window while stroking your forehead,

lean back into myself, walk away below.

From Equal to the Earth (Bench Press, 2009) © by Jee Leong Koh. Reprinted by permission of Bench Press.

Approaching Thirtyseven

After leaving my exboyfriend sleeping in his bed,

I think about turning thirtyseven in ten days,

and about being alone the next thirtyseven years.

There are some advantages. Give myself to poetry

wholeheartedly, undistracted by love’s demands.

Give myself to the unchanging arms of casual sex.

Back home, watching my favorite porn video,

the blond college freshman begging for the fist,

I take all of ten minutes. What to do with the other

fifty minutes to the hour, and the hours after that?

My books turn their backs on me. I clean

the common bathroom not cleaned for weeks,

but the grinning toilet bowl is a loser’s trophy.

I’m craving dully for the next hit, the bang of sex

or the wham of sounds transposing into an image.

In the interval between sex and poetry lies death.

The freshman intuits that. Which is why he begs

for the gloved fist to enter him again and again.

From Equal to the Earth (Bench Press, 2009) © by Jee Leong Koh. Reprinted by permission of Bench Press.

Spinoza on Love

In Amsterdam, that curious strand,

a man of trading blood was banned

for thinking it was very odd

that man should worship man in God,

and not the God of love’s demand.

Demand of me, my Love, demand

I give up all to understand

the ordinary and the odd

in Amsterdam.

Devoting all to understand

what stayed or traded on that strand,

he thought, therefore I am—how odd!—

the intellectual love of God,

the love that binds, what once was banned

in Amsterdam.

From Equal to the Earth (Bench Press, 2009 )© by Jee Leong Koh. Reprinted by permission of Bench Press.


Together we watched the wild desolate seascape

in the movie about the spotless mind. Montauk,

we know today, is neither wild nor desolate:

not the lake harbor in the shape of a human head,

where motorboats march in a column to marinas,

and fancy restaurants serve seafood kept fresh by the sea—

orange red lobster in the raw, ovenroasted fluke,

sweet mahi mahi, lemony mussels, wild salmon;

not the Village, where souvenir vendors sell Montauk

tanktops and, knowing summer’s term, Montauk sweatshirts,

where in the barrackstyle beach motels bivouac

surf soldiers darkened by the experience of sun,

where the Atlantic, ancient, absolvent, adjacent

to the one main drag, drowns the Sturm und Drang

of adulterous couples, estranged couples, gay couples,

and Indian families finding another sacred fount;

not wild, not desolate, not so at the Lighthouse,

the first savior of ships erected in these States,

with its museum of maritime wrecks, coastal maps—

sounding the measurements of safe passage to sea

and back, or journey beside land’s jagged boundary—

and of trust, the watchtower’s trinitarian team,

Lighthouse Keeper, First Assistant, Second Assistant,

twice a day spiraling the stairway to the top

to light the blinking lamp behind its Fresno lens

one hour before sunset, and to turn the eye off

one hour after sunrise, reverse but regular as

the sun; no, not even here at this high headland

overlooking Block Island Sound and the Ocean,

Ocean and Sound, heard here, at once Other and One,

where names man gives to nature cease to matter much

to the sailboat striding the waves, to the moon, to stars,

and on the rocky ledge round the lighthouse’s root

we both know, my love, who is no longer my love,

we’re standing at the very end of Long Island

but, no, neither wild nor desolate is the edge.

From Equal to the Earth (Bench Press, 2009) © by Jee Leong Koh. Reprinted by permission of Bench Press.


Jee Leong Koh has recently had his first book of poems Equal to the Earth (Bench Press, 2009) published. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets (University of Virginia Press) and Best Gay Poetry (A Midsummer Night's Press), and in PN Review, among other journals. Born in Singapore, he now lives in New York City, and blogs at Song of a Reformed Headhunter.

Jeff Walt

I Walk My Neighborhood at Night

The mutt my ex left me

has broken free from the back yard fence.

Now I’m scavenging the streets,

still in my work boots, greasy clothes,

the paper mill’s stench that hangs on me

no matter how much soap I use.

“Lucky,” I shout, as if the mongrel might come running, jump up,

lick my face; as if I have something to offer besides a chain

around his neck and leftover Spaghetti-Os.

I stumble through dark yards—

windows glow, boxes of private lives lit: families

finishing dinner, clearing tables, watching TV. A boombox

screeches “Cocaine”; a man yells at a woman, hands

thrashing in the air. I remember being struck by love.

What would I say if I slammed in there? What words

would change anything?

My neighbor rattles home in his car, calls his six kids

little sons-of-bitches—their small, vague

bodies like shadows, skipping circles and clapping

lightning bugs dead between their hands.

As a boy, I wanted to kill

everything smaller than me: beetles sprayed

with AquaNet, butterflies smacked

from the bright air, wings dipped in motor oil.

In those moments, I was certain

I would become a man who could conquer anything.

I yell down a dead end street

for a dog I know doesn’t love me; a pet afraid

of my voice hard as the two-by-four I’ve whacked

against his rib cage, days and days chained to himself.

First appeared in Mangrove Review, Fall 2005. Copyright (c) 2009 by Jeff Walt.

Mama’s Blues

I sit here at the kitchen table playin’ cards with myself.

Sit here half the night talkin’ to myself.

Maybe whiskey's all that’s kept me in good health.

Lord help me ‘cause I know I’m a drunk.

Lord help me ‘cause I want to get drunk.

I miss singin’ honky-tonk songs with my good friend Skunk.

Men tell me I’m fine, but I ain’t believin’ that shit.

Tell me I’m fine and I still feel like shit.

Say they want me in their kitchen, but I’ll never get hitched.

I want The Lone Star with its jukebox’s blue light.

I want my old stool and a fine man offering me a light.

I need JD and lots of Walkin’ After Midnight.

I been like a dog tied inches from the bone of pleasure.

I been good for weeks—now I need to dig up some treasure!

I want a night that will howl and bark forever.

Might go downtown and shop for a little noise.

Might go for just an hour and try on a little noise.

Could have just one—maybe buy a round for the boys.

If I go, I’ll promise to be back by midnight.

Lord, I promise I’ll be back by midnight.

I need a little somethin’ to make me feel right.

I grab a ten, my Kools, reach for the door.

I grab my jacket and keys and run out the door.

Two shots later I’m swirling on the dance floor.

Maybe I’ll go round and round like this till the day I die.

Maybe I’ll go round and round praying to die.

Round and round drinking myself alive.

First appeared as Miss Kitty’s Blues in Poetic Voices Without Borders (Gival Press, 2005). Copyright (c) 2009 by Jeff Walt.


When he walks into the stink

of cigarette smoke and greasy food,

nobody looks up

from their dirty mugs of beer.

Christmas lights halo the room.

He orders tequila shots,

rips off the fake beard,

slaps it on the bar like hard-earned money.

“It’s A Wonderful Life”

on TV—the scene where George

gets his world back, runs yelling

down a snowy street.

“Bullshit,” Santa hollers.

The bartender in a tight T-shirt, MARY

written in red across his chest,

raises his hand and jerks

three disapproving snaps.

Behind the bar a picture of Jeff Stryker

in the manger surrounded by plastic donkeys

and wise men wearing thongs

blinks off and on. All day

Santa’s been dying

to escape his cardboard house

at the mall, pull the pillow

from under his jacket

that whining kids punched

for hours. Hours

dreaming of walking away

from his hard, merciless

chair where he sat praying

over and over for the drinks

he’s downing now

as he wishes for a buck

for every scum who promised

to be with him forever. His last shot

catches the light of the Nativity scene, glows

like a miniature star in his hand

as he throws his head back quickly,

pours the flickering inside.

First appeared in the Queer Issue of The Cream City Review in 2005. Copyright (c) 2009 by Jeff Walt.


I’m smoking on the stoop again, although I vowed

to give it up, to stop wasting my days lusting

after the sinewy strength of glistening men without shirts

shooting hoops across the street. A cigarette lounging

between my lips, the first deep hit, smoke uncurling

in my throat. My heart stained yellow from yearning.

So much craving in life: these guys in baggy jeans

and gym shorts dunking, charging, cocks flopping,

and this sweet release of streamers, O’s, tiny tornados, a desire

I can’t put down or live without. I don’t want to come back

from slow-burning that fills me completely as peace.

The radio says there is poison in everything—

even the violets outside my window. I could drop dead

any minute from radon slithering silently

from the basement. So I give in, continue to light up, charmed

by romantic greed, knowing the statistics and myths

as each slim stick steals a minute off my life. I bless

this half pack of Marlboros, the guys’ sweat that I want to lick

from their slick, sweet bodies, these warm cement steps

and the chips of scattered sun buried in the sidewalk,

kids batting rocks in the street, cats crying for food,

and this adrenaline rush: knowing it’s legal

to sit in public on a stoop, and kill yourself

slowly as you surrender to love.

First appeared in Harpur Palate, January 2004. Copyright (c) 2009 by Jeff Walt.


Jeff Walt’s chapbook, Vows, was recently awarded First Place in the 2009 Gertrude Press Chapbook Contest and will be published in 2010. His work has appeared in various journals including Connecticut Review, The Ledge, The Comstock Review, The Sun, and Runes. Poems are forthcoming in the anthology, The Light in Ordinary Things (Fearless Books, 2009). Visit:

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