Carl Boon ~ Four Poems


In Pyongyang City we pause
at the founders’ portraits.
For a moment we are mesmerized
and then move on—some will dance
near the foun­tains at Mansudae
and some will board the train
for the north­ern provinces.

Life’s a spec­ta­cle of ghosts
in lim­bo here, a cease­less past
knock­ing with­out mer­cy at a set
of iron doors. In the evening
my friends and I go bowling
at the Kim Jong-il Arcade,

drink Chinese beer and listen
to the dong-shu gam­ble and shout
in a dis­tant par­lor. I think about Marx
and the means of production
before I sleep, and hear the woman
in the next apart­ment pound
the ped­al of her sewing machine.

Her rhythm keeps me restless,
keeps me won­der­ing what if
the Americans hadn’t gone away.
Her rhythm makes a blanket
and a men­ace both, and some days
I want to live with­out this paradise.



I write “The Beginners” on a Friday night.
One day my daugh­ter might read it,
but prob­a­bly not. No endur­ing metaphor
sus­tains it—I know its flaws and what
it could have been if I were of a different
mood, writ­ing, per­haps, from a hotel room
in Paris. I revise it Saturday and send it
to a mag­a­zine in Long Beach, California.
Editor Shari likes it, says its images
recall to her her father’s uncertainty,
and they would like to pub­lish it
in Volume 32. I make cof­fee; I am pleased.
But it’s not a very good poem. As usual,
I shift away from the meaningful
moment and decide on maybe instead.
Yes—and I wish I had anoth­er beer,
and I wish I were wise enough to know
the dif­fer­ence between meaningful
and maybe, but I’m not. In the next room,
my daugh­ter watch­es mon­keys chewing
mel­on rinds on YouTube, and she laughs,
and she is good because of this, and falls asleep
with a Dorito on her chest.



If you’d lis­ten, I’d whis­per the meaning
of our being here this dread­ful month,
this dread­ful year of uncer­tain­ty and greed,
begin­ning with the sea.

You must stand in it and note an oys­ter foot,
its col­ors first: pur­ple darkening
and light­en­ing in dif­fer­ent directions,
the sun­set sky you know, and then

sleep-white, almost the moon
or your mother’s favorite dress, the one she wore
when you were young and knew only her.
You must remem­ber know­ing only her,

a knee against the oth­er, a rus­tle of flesh
as she cooked your favorite meal:
spaghet­ti and meat­balls, a salad
with a hun­dred grape tomatoes.

Thousand Island dress­ing then silence,
then you twist­ing on the kitchen floor and asking
Why is Daddy hap­py only sometimes?
What hap­pens when we die? and Am I

the one you had imag­ined? It’s com­ing back—
you are com­ing back—to the thing you were
before, the thing you had to be
before the world turned strange

and you bled then wept at the thought
of your bleed­ing. You are remem­ber­ing her
kneel­ing, wip­ing your thighs with a cloth
that went from white to red

to pur­ple, almost. This is what I came to tell you.
She knelt and loved you unreservedly,
with­out con­trol. And made your blood
dis­ap­pear into darkness.



İnönü wept, İnönü roared,
İsmet İnönü looked from the shore

at Çanakkale and won­dered why
the British gun­boats went on by.

They looked so lit­tle to him,
so waver­ing and thin,

and past the Aegean to where the sea
turns black. İnönü nev­er prayed; he

wore a thin gray jacket
with the lapels turned back

then strode to his cot­tage by the sea.
He didn’t look at you and he didn’t look at me.

A man of isn’t or is, he spent
the day’s remains with bakla­va and bent

flow­ers, and tele­phoned Churchill.
We are not fragile,

he said, we are Turks because
the land of was

is now the land of is and
trem­bled, just a lit­tle, in the sand.


Carl Boon is the author of the full-length col­lec­tion Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in many jour­nals and mag­a­zines, includ­ing Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and cur­rent­ly lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teach­es cours­es in American cul­ture and lit­er­a­ture at Dokuz Eylül University.