published poems: www.42opus.com

link to soon to be published book: www.ausablepress.org



Joshua Rathkamp

Josh Rathkamp

What’s Wrong with Being Human

I lived two houses down a dead end street.
When the river ran rough
we checked our basements.
We called to each other to help.
We hauled boxes up
from the dark like large fish.

When Mary or Mark or Helen died,
little by little,
we all did. We sent flowers.
The street took to looking
like a Cadillac. It grew bolder.
It grew rosy cheeks.

When Jack repainted, John
repainted, and the painters
ate lunch on the roof.

We said “it looks nice,”
nodding at our mailboxes.
We waved while shoveling snow
off the walkway no one walked
but the dogs and our manic-depressive mailman.

When we wanted an egg or a glass
of milk we drove to the store.
We stared out our windows.
Our children grew without parents.
We grew into speaking without words.

We thought our reflections
in the lamplight were only there
out of loyalty, and, if given
a chance, would run
like Mrs. Eddie's dead son
naked, through trees.

If Practice Made Perfect

The neighbor's child outside could sink
his three point shot, the moon
could make any man more darling,
and those people constantly calling
on the phone during dinner
could draw us forth like siren song.
If practice made perfect
there'd be no dicks caught in zippers,
no stumbling on stairs,
no mischievous cat meowing
morning into light, no girl
in my car coming home from the bar
rubbing her softest spots
while I watch, swerve, hit
two curbs. There'd be no wind
in the window, no rare cool breeze.
If practice makes perfect
there'd be no deadening drops
of sugar in my blood, no way
to say through my panic, my needs.
If practice made perfect
there'd be no sound lovelier
than the word used to describe it,
no road not mapped,
no river worth more than its water.

Before God Made Good

         And God saw that the light was Good. And God separated
         the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and
         the darkness he called Night.

It is true, what they said, a crow can call
a soul into answer.
It is true. Before day there was darkness
so vast and unimaginable
our outspread arms became eyes,
the white cataract of a stubbed finger.

Those days the wind sifting
the fallen leaves didn't console us, didn't tell us
anything about ourselves except this
insistent need for warmth. And we liked it,

huddling together, holding our arms
up to each other, greeting
the old fashioned way,
somewhere between a hug and a kiss,
no matter what sex
we wanted each other to be.

We were what we wanted.