Nebraska Center for Writers

THE TYRANNY OF WORDS
by Christopher Thomas

— for Steward Chase

I think of them
that live on words
then vanish
like a tickle
down the spine.

Some leave
bits of teeth
among the pearls,
or lace their secrets
in thin webs
of cash and delight.

Still other
are born of leaves,
lie alone
upon angry pages,
are afraid
to be touched,

or hustle
more comfortable
nests. The rest
wait to be caught
to be caged like poems.

They wait,
in the silence,
in the echoes,
in the premonitions.

Reprinted with permission
from Hurakan
Copyright © 1995
by Christopher Thomas


VISITING THE AIDS WING
by Christopher Thomas


It is early morning on the AIDS wing.
A white face is lost in long coughing fits.
Somewhere down a hall, a boy's sweet face
has frozen shut. He cannot speak, but cries.
A black man, face in prayer, has come down
from Chicago to reclaim his ex-wife.
She is being consumed by her own skin.

A gangly young drunk grabs me in the hall
and tells me he can't stay sober, forgets
to take his pills, hasn't eaten in days.
He tells me he tasted only semen
and did not know it was the taste of death.
He tells me all his prospects are ugly.
He tells me he cannot recall his name.

A young lawyer shows me two purple sores
where her lips should be, weeps for her unborn.
I journey among them all day, the brave,
the dying, the reluctant to be dead.
I'm undone by them, by the final shapes
I know time must take in them, by the fear
this invisible stuff will never die

Reprinted with permission
from Evergreen Chronicles, Winter 1997
Copyright © 1997
by Christopher Thomas

TO A BEAUTIFUL BOY
by Christopher Thomas

How do I tell you
your body will never be enough
to carry your soul,

or that the innocentlessness
of your skin will someday
close the door on your dreams.

the hungry months of Spring
will slip like quicksilver
into the blight of Winter.

One day your smooth passions
will wrinkle like an old shirt
into the brittleness of history.

Yet puberty must eat through
the brain to the final ache,
that frantic moment when the mirror

must begin its vast calming,
and our blue stupidity learns
to believe in more than its own lap.

Reprinted with permission
from Owen Wister Review
Copyright © 1997
by Christopher Thomas


WHAT TO DO WHEN NOTHING WORKS
by Christopher Thomas


I knew a man once who heard the voice of God,
but thought he was talking to himself.
He called this place the devil's worm bag.

He wrote his journey in dollars and cents.
It cost him much more than money.
He was a dazzling drunk, and didn't notice.

He was so in love with hardened spirits,
he lined his shelves with them.
They were his rare and sacred books,
and the only library he ever read.

Knowing the uneasy history of good intentions,
and wanting to be an ornament of the Great thing's tree,
I push my faith in him to the limits,
and surrounded him with great carbonated prayers.

I was left with only the bubbles.
The man got lost in the world's bewildering hardware.
He cursed all who would not follow.

One night he cursed me, too. I left unannounced.
It was a long drive home. He call it abandonment,
and betrayal. I called it escape.

Reprinted with permission
from Hurakan,
Copyright © 1995
by Christopher Thomas


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