Two Poems by Leonard Kress

Orpheus Autopsied
When cops and doctors finally found the crime
scene, and retrieved the soggy, mangled, headless
corpse, they could now officially buttress
what they’d previously only been able to presume
with the singular fact that his heart had a hole.
They could not determine, though, if he was born
with it (which might explain his early turn
to poetry and ascendency) or if it was his role
as lover-losing-beloved that burned through
or whittled out that hole. Or his descent
to the underworld, where some monster meant
to wound him on his way. Or losing her through
foolishness again—that gaze that can pierce
a heart. Or maybe, his final lonely life
hunting down poetry, and the ultimate strife
that life entails. They couldn’t even deduce
how common it was among poets—this affliction.
After all, they’d have to kill them first to find
out, or disinter too many tombs with no funds.
There were limits, of course, to their speculation.


Serial Killer
The most famous serial killer-rapist ever
lived for a while in my old neighborhood
50 years ago, only now public
and those who still live there
and those who ventured far
revel that they almost intersected
with infamy.
He stayed with his grandfather for the year
though no one remembers him
(the boyishly hunkish miscreant)
but grandpa’s
a different story.
Screamed at kids who ventured near
his flower beds
stiffed workers
sold blighted shrubs
at the nursery he owned
and the kid who replaced his pads
at the local Chevron swore
he rode his brakes relentlessly
It was mostly the girls
(girls back then)
recalling two of his early victims
at the Jersey shore
(downa shore, they would have said)
Praise God
it wasn’t one of us
hitch-hiking alone the Black Horse Pike
to weekend in Ocean City
all family and dry
then sneaking cross
the causeway to Somer’s Point
to drink with college guys.
Was it him, one wonders
who picked me up
tossed my backpack in his trunk
complained the whole way
about his broken wrist
his cast decorated with hearts
Thank God
I didn’t accept the pill
he offered after popping
one himself.
Those poor girls
they all chimed
could have been us
under the boardwalk
at dusk, beach patrol busy
with fires and their own pickup lines.
They still haven’t admitted
to boyfriends (some who became husbands)
who they let pick them up
wriggle off the two-piece strap
from peeling sun-burnt freckled shoulders
and the soothing beery lick
impossible to stave off
even if they wanted to—
Crystal Blue Persuasion
on the transistor by now
half-buried in the sand.
Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Missouri Review, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems and his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. Craniotomy Sestinas appeared in 2021. He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens College in Ohio.

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