the museum of americana

a literary review

For Shelter — Poetry by Dan Alter

 
There at sunrise, a roadside Leonard
Cohen, eating stones. Wearing, as
always, the wrong hat, that refuses
to match the weather of his face. Bought
already sweat-stained off a high
shelf of an alley Jerusalem
shop. Pawned by the uncle practicing
Babylonian law on the Roman
clock, exponentially resold
by disciples of the factious
rabbi, soaked in untold Polish
winters. Freighted over the border
in a cold car trunk, shivered in
rockabye prayer. Set on the steep
slope of head against his mineral
eyes, the hat is a net that trolls
the air for the schools of our quick
little ideas. The hat is a sidewalk paced
by men divorced, into their cellphones
they snarl and cajole to sell off
the last rag-doll scraps of their ex-
wives, they are fallen off the ladder
of love. And it’s a table: thin-
stem glasses, polished knives to cut
sorrow into swallowable
bites. Yet with all these shadows, poor
Leonard, it cannot defend him
from the sun, which bears ultra-
violetly down on him and his hard
dinner. So only when the cars
with curtains of speed draw night
across the road, does he turn to us
the gaps of his smile. We, with our
minowy regrets, who want to stand
closer. Just to rub our cheeks
with the grief twined in that voice,
a voice shaky as the morning
after, dry as pills. To take shade
where his lilt slowly curls like
the burn of tobacco under
the brim, and ask him once again
to open his mouth.

 

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Dan AlterDan Alter has poems recently published or forthcoming in Burnside ReviewFieldZyzzyvaFloating Bridge, Fourteen HillsSquaw Valley Review, and Sou’wester among others. He lives with his wife and daughter in Berkeley and makes his living as an electrician.