carroll Street by rustin larson

Two Poems by Rustin Larson

buddha
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Lawn Ornament
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Buddha, seated with four disciples, looks like my grandmother, same squarish face and long earlobes, same hairdo, topknot she’d put under a net before she went to work at the egg plant, the disassembly line, so to speak, white ovals conveyed for candling and then powdering for armed forces overseas. After work she’d slip on Buddha’s housecoat– a few ocher stripes, some emblems of orchids– she would drink her tea, silently, ceremoniously, the center of a circle of ghosts.
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Carroll Street
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in Brooklyn is probably still there, as familiar to millions as Ingersoll is to me. The fall turns to parchment. Every leaf is blank. Every leaf has something written on it, held under a slanted evening light. In a slanted evening light in Brooklyn someone sips Irish Creme from a snifter and lays down a pair of hearts. Someone shoots the moon; another person is sure she has enough for the ride, and yet another
waits for her shift in the department store to end so she can make her photography class. Meanwhile, a man in a dirty coat is followed by six genuine devils who want to eat him. A priest is doing laps in the pool at the Downtown Athletic Club, his mind a transcendental blank as he touches the wall and curves back. In the afterlife, three people sit around a kitchen table. They’ve just finished turkey and all the
trimmings and now they are settling into cigarettes and coffee and beer and better conversation than they ever had in life. The big, bear- like man with the glass eye says he is “Mighty Hunter” and pounds his smoke-filled chest. A fourth person, the grandmother, walks into the kitchen now with a jar of sour pickles. The light is a cloud-covered yellow. There is a sandy soil garden full of zucchini and cucumbers outside. They talk and talk about the Catholic Church and Christmas and Easter and how their funerals were all a bit disappointing, aggravating and yet balming when someone spoke a kind word or offered an earnest prayer. The houses they live in are their favorites from life. They, each, are not quite ready to choose a new identity– rebirth seems like a cold bath. So here they sit, taking turns in each other’s kitchen and home, an endless supply of cigarettes and coffee and beer cleared unnoticed from the table every endless hour.
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Rustin Larson’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review, Poetry East, The Atlanta Review and other magazines. Crazy Star was selected for the Loess Hills Book’s Poetry Series in 2005. Larson won 1st Editor’s Prize from Rhino magazine in 2000 and has won prizes for his poetry from The National Poet Hunt and The Chester H. Jones Foundation among others. A five-time Pushcart nominee, and graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing, Larson was an Iowa Poet at The Des Moines National Poetry Festival in 2002 and 2004, a featured writer in the DMACC Celebration of the Literary Arts in 2007, 2008, and has been highlighted on the public radio programs Live from Prairie Lights and Voices from the Prairie. He lives in Fairfield, Iowa.
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