Eric Roy ~ Four Poems

On the Shoulder of September

First week of September, accused of touch­ing a student
inap­pro­pri­ate­ly, I was called to the principal’s office
on my off-peri­od. Knot in my tie too tight, I didn’t dare
adjust it. He raised one fin­ger, less to indi­cate a start,
more like reas­sur­ing. Unfortunately, this stu­dent does this
with all of her new male teach­ers, he said. We’re sure

you’ve done noth­ing wrong. He stood & walked me
to the door, but, before open­ing it, soft­ly added: The father.
Sunlight fell through a win­dow in the hallway
onto a miss­ing tile, reveal­ing the old asbestos floor beneath.
7th peri­od came, but her chair was emp­ty. Driving home,
the steer­ing wheel burned & flecks of pleather stuck to my hands.

Later, the news read 113 degrees, a record high that stands,
but, on high­way 95, between Elgin & Bastrop, I couldn’t see.
Heat, after­noon glare, sun­blind & afraid of oncom­ing traffic
I had to pull over. Shielding my eyes, I looked the oth­er way
& only when the earth turned enough to shade the road
lead­ing from the junior high, could I con­tin­ue on.



Rain today, moth­er, not the act but its residue and
dri­ving all I see is you before the rapids, hold­ing tight
the side of an inner­tube with one hand, Lone Star
with the oth­er. Guadalupe green and wide. Floating
near the river­bank you’re head­ed toward a system
of exposed, high roots that form a sky-lit tunnel.
Picturing it, it looks invit­ing. Imagining it, every time,
it looks okay. But the roots flip you over. White water
turns to white noise, and the tan­gle holds you down. They
say a sure sign of a ser­i­al killer is a child who tortures
and kills defense­less ani­mals, but I’ve nev­er killed
any­body here. In fact, saved a few. People. Animals.
One kit­ten I caught I won’t soon for­get. Dead black.
Green eyes like search­ing through night vision goggles.
She didn’t care when I spun her on the kitchen floor,
nev­er cried or howled. And after­ward, she wait­ed for
her eyes to fin­ish slot-machin­ing, didn’t try to get away
or crash into the cab­i­netry, scared. No. Walked over, sat.
Looked me up and calm­ly said, “Asshole,” with a smile.
That night I dreamt of walk­ing bare­foot on a bed of nails,
and there came a bit­ing pain so real it ordered me awake.
By my feet hang­ing off the end of my mat­tress on the floor:
that kit­ten. Green eyes trained on me, zeroed in. Named her
then and there. Whispered one time to make it real: Scout.
Her place was at the foot of my mat­tress. Until it wasn’t.
Summer air smells like spit dry­ing on flesh after the rain.
Strongest in the wood­lands between sub­di­vi­sions. Today,
three mock­ing­birds drove a stub­born jay from a tall pecan.
Some kids’ dirt fort melt­ed, free­ing its cap­tive pages of
bondage pornog­ra­phy. Near my truck, walk­ing a snarl
of mesquite, a lit­tle black car­cass woven in between.
A line of ants had car­ried away her eyes, but I knew
who it was. From how she’d been done in. Full bore
run­ning down what­ev­er she was chas­ing, the moment
lead­ing the way. Executing with­out a sec­ond thought
then stuck inside the results. No going back now.



Was it Spring in Budapest?
Medusa’s Gala? Tobacco Leaf
or Wedgwood Florentine? All
I know is we were told, more
than once, the chi­na was inherited.
So, being cau­tious, of course
I clutzed the spoon loud­ly off
my plate, chip­ping its edge.
As luck would have it, the guest
of hon­or, a work­ing artist, had just
com­man­deered the conversation
with no slight amount of verve.
Push no small paint! When one’s
focus is on minor details, timidity,
cau­tion, undoes the entire canvas
invari­ably. I fin­gered the chip
like tip of an eye­tooth missing.
It helps to not look direct­ly at
what you’re look­ing at. Try to
take the whole scene in at once.
The way to fight 4 foes is to not
con­cen­trate on one. Familiar
ruts of recep­tion. Be periphery.
Time and time again, after two
whiskeys and an Ambien, wings
unfurl and car­ry me outside
reach­es of my vision. Returning
with a limon­cel­lo, I saw intent
across the table from a demon.
Politely trad­ing the meringue
for porce­lain bloom of butterfly
to stroke the edge of bitterness
with an art­less splash of cream.


If I’d Known You Were Going to Call, Grandmother

I would not have spent that entire morning
mas­tur­bat­ing, & if I had known the message
left on my machine would be your last words
I’m sure I would have answered, even then.
As it hap­pened, head shak­ing, horrified
laugh­ter was all I could do. That, & continue
with the work at hand until I heard the words,
“I’ll always have my mem­o­ries,” whereupon
we both were stilled in a pause last­ing longer
than typ­i­cal­ly it takes to hang up the phone.
& then you died, grand­moth­er. You died
in your bed, in your house, alone.
Until this moment, I nev­er returned your call.
That day, like part of an antique mir­ror long
desil­ver­ing, now has become clear. I can see
you in your dim, pas­tel kitchen, Death & Memory
mix­ing anoth­er round of Bloody Caesars
as you reach for the phone. After your message,
though I hadn’t fin­ished, I was through. Time
to clean & return every item to its prop­er place.
Move back the fur­ni­ture. Listen to your message
& curse embar­rassed laugh­ter one more time.
Jasmine vines sur­round­ing my garage apartment
had climbed spread­ing out far as they could,
then found a way inside my bed­room beneath
the win­dow by the phone. Near the end of each
erect branch­let: flow­ers bud­ding whitish gray.
I dressed then sat in a hand of glar­ing sunlight,
read­ing absent­ly, already filled with knowledge
of the upcom­ing night. I’d meet peo­ple I knew,
some I didn’t. Constant music would pro­pel us,
& the air. But grand­moth­er, I know. Spark flares
into a ghost­ing streak of match­light & always
dark booth-cor­ner faces. I became cloud, took
place in for­ma­tion loom­ing enclosed horizons,
trad­ed stars for neon Pearl and Dixie eventide
on lac­quered wood-top sea. We were only waiting
grand­moth­er, wait­ing to talk. Buoyed by the sound
of life in our own voic­es. & per­haps anoth­er round.


Eric Roy has poet­ry forth­com­ing at Third Coast, Salamander, Bennington Review, Westerly, and Sugar House Review. His poems can also be found at Poetry South, Green Mountains Review, The Minnesota Review, Tampa Review, Salt Hill, Tar River Poetry, and else­where. His debut chap­book “All Small Planes” is forth­com­ing from Lily Poetry in March 2021.