David P. Kozinski ~ Four Poems

How It Started and Where It Went

Clouds limped up the mar­ble steps of the sky
over Tower Road by the cemetery,
its gray slabs stick­ing out, snaggle-toothed,
from the soft gums of earth
that morn­ing you showed me the note
left on your wind­shield, vague­ly threatening
but in a girl­ish hand, signed Ichabod.
We both knew this was a damsel-in-dis­tress ruse
and ran with it any­way, awhile.

We had the same dream
the same night and lolled on the bed
until the sun slant­ed across 46th Street.
“My teeth were all loose in my mouth
but there wasn’t any blood.”
Your voice rose like a ques­tion. I poured myself
half a glass of Lillet and offered you one.
“At 11:00 in the morning?”
I swished it around like mouth­wash and swallowed

and I shrugged. Mine were all over the place,
like Chicklets. I’d been play­ing hock­ey or learning
to skate but the rink turned into some­thing else,
a car dealer’s showroom,
with all these racy jobs in can­dy colors.
You want­ed to take one for a test drive
and just keep going.

You said, “Anything built on a lie sinks and collapses,”
your unvar­nished fin­ger­nails slid­ing a cigarette
from my pock­et, hold­ing your hand out
for the lighter and I thought
maybe, but it can slide like a sled
down a loop­ing lane
longer than you would ever guess
if it starts with a nod and an angu­lar kiss,
a tease of hair between smooth fingers,
if you both think the score is tied.

It was around Easter and bells rang
from around the cor­ner, St. Francis calling
the deaf, the wid­owed, the heavy-laden.
“What do you think it means, teeth falling out?”
Maybe los­ing auton­o­my or fear of grow­ing old,
or some­thing. You took a sip
from my sec­ond glass to slow me down
and I reached under you and pinched
like a crab in the heav­ens grab­bing for a star.


My Nights Turn Into Your Mornings

Days belong to some­one else
whether or not you work for yourself
but even if you spend them sleeping,
crammed with dis­tress­ful bread,
the nights are yours for the shaping.
Security cam­eras shut down, traf­fic lights clink
for no one but you and the after-hours joint
serves poached eggs and a duo
that knows every tune
from “’S Wonderful” to “Spanish Moon.”
Croupiers, cock­tail wait­ress­es and lock tenders
whose time leans to sharp orders
and con­tem­plat­ed angles,
whom sleep eludes or who eschew it
know how to dodge the heat
in its many guises –
cho­rus of low talk­ers, the tena­cious flatfoot,
a dank, unshed­d­a­ble blanket.
In hours qui­et as a shal­low pond
when a few dogs, let out, bark across our lawns
where spi­ders play castanets,
con­den­sa­tion catch­es light that has travelled
since before life gur­gled up here;
bends it, shifts its hues
and shoots it out again right past your ear.
Deep in the pil­low sink the tak­ings of the night;
cher­ry popped in a cheek,
moon­stone, yel­low opal, ruby,
a peach plucked and sliced into crescents
that bob among the half-spun clouds.


Sums and Subtractions

Reception in this low-lying place
is more errat­ic than I’m used to..
Rain on the roof entrances itself,
spills over the gutters
and after, the night remains, still and close.
I’m advised to bet­ter use the waking
hours left. This goes to nothing.
I have set down the labors that are gone
along­side things I did for fun
and that comes to next to nothing.

My impor­tant acqui­si­tions were made
with­out speak­ing or seeing
any­one; the binge drinkers,
reverse prayer books,
crime scene cleansers and their bul­ly barns.
Be a bud­dy and hand me the jar.
Mm. Awful.

There is a creak and pop in every
lit­tle ship that drifts
with quar­rel­some currents.
There is a puz­zle in a box that represents
what’s bet­ter left forgotten
and a deck with one missing
every time we cut. These amount
to not a lot.

I don’t raise the scope more than I need to,
don’t tell the anaesthesiologist
how to mix his cock­tails. I am going
to hear mes­sages traders dream about,
down where man­a­cles hang, sway empty
in the heat.

What I say and do are dif­fer­ent matters
to way­ward crea­tures hitch­ing and hoping.
I am often told what I want to hear
so why shouldn’t I also give a lit­tle to get along?
It leaves a tidy sum.

A lucky few who nei­ther lose sight
of their shores nor miss
friend­ly lanes they know will guide them
nev­er lack sleep.
Mine is a narrative
of con­den­sa­tion and grav­i­ty, of lit­tle leaks
and invis­i­ble damage.
All that I remem­ber of family
sleeps, slipped away in drawers.


The Reckless, the Wild Youth

Setting fire to our insides for fun…”
‑Elena Tonra

Around dawn with the wind-up birds twittering
she said, “Has any­one seen my face anywhere?”
This was short­ly after the menagerie ceased
bay­ing and skit­ter­ing side­ways and dipping
the milk of pen­ny-a-pound diamonds
that shot through the sky;
red stars, gum­ball satel­lites and a rain of silver
fell out of sight. I just want­ed to sleep
but all the pieces left felt jagged
and her hunger lingered.

I had a pret­ty co-star who had her head on straight,
and rode her horse, Perfumo, English style
but I found I want­ed two,
and a guest house
and steam punk sets
to play in. Our best nights strained
through a colan­der of cock­tail talk,
Steve Winwood sound­ing thoughts
that didn’t quite piece together
and a sax with a fuzzy pedal.

If I’d had noth­ing to do as I always dreamed
but what I want­ed, no day could have started
before noon; each stop at a new planet,
in search of that lost face,
plot­ted by col­or on a rough­house wheel – chartreuse,
black cher­ry, char­coal and teal
rolling through a month of weekends.

Every trip extends the scope of the next
and pret­ty soon I’ll find myself alone
in the cock­pit of a ship with controls
not made for hands with dig­its like my own.


David P. Kozinski has two full-length books of poems. The orig­i­nal man­u­script of I Hear It the Way I Want It to Be (2022) was a final­ist for the Inlandia (California) Institute’s Hillary Gravendyke Prize and Tripping Over Memorial Day was pub­lished in 2017 (both from Kelsay Books). His chap­book, Loopholes (Broadkill Press), won the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. He is Poet-in-Residence at Rockwood Park and Museum in New Castle County, Delaware and is Art Editor for Schuylkill Valley Journal. Kozinski was the 2018 Established Professional Poetry Fellowship recip­i­ent from the Delaware Division of the Arts. That year he was named Mentor of the year by Expressive Path, a non-prof­it that fos­ters arts par­tic­i­pa­tion for youth. He serves on the board of the Eastern Shore Writers Association and the edi­to­r­i­al board of Philadelphia Stories magazine.