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Hope never took the bait and other poems
by Doug Van Hooser

Hope never took the bait


I have so many things I haven’t done that I need to discard

Old newspapers stacked like accomplishments

Unread books staring out the window

Learning I never learned everything there is to know


Bright as the sun blinded me

I caught one pass over my head, it took two hands

I got lucky more than once

Unlucky more than twice


Worked like a dog, rewarded like a rat

Pats on the back left a bruise

Knowing the heavy branches did not bend under my weight

Top of the pile is not top of the pyramid


Myopic in one eye, the hyperopic one drifted off

Focused on stratocirrus desire, cumulous satisfaction

Achievement in small bites, disappointment in gulps

Threads twisted in knots too tough to unravel


Concentric circles orbit the years

Intimacy afraid to touch me

Dalliance sour milk

Shame a pair of mittens


Confidence rarely takes a chance

Loneliness a raked pile of leaves

Depression has no depth perception

I am sewn in patches


Simplifying is survival of the fittest

Casting without allure I caught what I expected

Shuffled the cards and repeated the error

My mistake: optimism, hope’s grindstone


Still, I tug on the sword in the stone

Look to the horizon and swear it is closer

Leave footprints in the sand every time the tide goes out

Sharpen the knife and test its edge


Go forward without looking left or right

Bargain with the devil but refuse his best offer

Convince myself the water is not that deep

I cannot swim but manage to float


Now I know the secret

The key I was given never fit the lock



Volume 215, no. 4

I have started throwing me away.

A poetry lit mag the first victim.

An acquaintance I was indifferent to. 

A decision to dislodge and displace my alliterative longing,

most of which I fail to decipher.

There is so little to put in my pocket.

To carry around like a set of keys

that allow the hummingbird’s bill

to poke between petal and sepal

and taste the nectar necessary to my pulse.

I’m ignoring the facts of my life:

bank, brokerage, government statements,

the time taxing shredding of all things that smolder.

Logs pyrolyze to charcoal

when desire flames brighter than reward.

The runoff is what I remember. 

My favorite part of the forest has no paths

and is littered with broken branches where

fungus and lichen grow on decay.

It’s time to pick my next victim.

Perhaps one of the sixteen versions of Beethoven’s 18th piano sonata.

It won’t be any of Sviatoslav Richter’s chords.

They bound like a buck struck by the scent of estrus.

But I succumb to room temperature.

    Worry about the weight of waiting.

        As I climb the stairs of future’s gallows

the noose of the past pulls tight.

    Another sunrise, another sunset,

        another meal, another defecation,

another turning of the screw.

Tick Tock


The landscape is a kaleidoscope of brown shades.

The lake has not frozen.

There are no bees.

Winter’s sting abuzz in the hive.


A message arrives in its honey time.

I have no control since I never wear a watch.

That would cuff my wrists,

shackle my hands to a clock

that only sweeps one direction.

Forever forward to the metronome of seconds,

the bell clap of minutes,

the cuckoo of hours.


A gander in the wedge that can’t split the sky,

I migrate sigh to sigh,

thinking what’s ahead

mirrors what’s behind.



Ah, my ego,

broken like an old clay pot.

Jagged pieces with sharp edges,

shards of indifference.

A humpty-dumpty case

not worth a horse’s neigh.

I wasn’t fragile,

just fell the right/wrong way.

The surface of self-respect

concrete hard, unforgiving as a wave.

The undertow of expectation

an obelisk of naïve worship

of achieve and attain.

The mountain pass that switches back

as you climb

but steers clear of the summit.

Nothing is simple as apple pie.

An apple tart failure filling

unsweetened by the sugar of success.

Acceptance a primordial dance

never learned.

There’s a constant ache

that reminds me,

all water flows to an ocean.



Pressed flower


You left me years ago.

A season of dried flowers followed.

I waited on subterranean springs

to fill my glacial depression.

Snow whipped in the wind

piling in mounds,

hiding all chance of slip and fall.

When spring came, a slow melt.

The cold absorbed into the ground.

Green slowly showed its face,

a crooked self-deprecating smile.

Doug Van Hooser's poetry has appeared in Roanoke Review, The Courtship of Winds, After Hours, Wild Roof Journal, and Poetry Quarterly among other publications. His fiction can be found in Red Earth Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Bending Genres Journal. Doug’s plays have received readings at Chicago Dramatist Theatre and Three Cat Productions. More at 

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