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.
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
There’s a constant ache
that reminds me,
all water flows to an ocean.
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 dougvanhooser.com.