Ryan Bartlett

August 29, 2009

FATTY IN FRAME
(For Mr. Arbuckle)

Fatty’s
face begins
to freeze
in this
invincible
Highland
heat.

It holds a
violent
grimace
nearly
stuck in a
medium
of measureless
space in my
grandparent’s
padlocked
past.

Roscoe feebly
asphyxiates
his face
into something
more difficult
(not weepy
or smiley)
with a whiff
of champagne,
laughing gas,
and a war-time
rag-a-south song
for his great
frame named
Virginia,
who holds the
truth of their
tryst
in her
roomy
opulent
pupils.

He nuzzles her
naked biology—
joggles his
lifelessness
onto it,
tries to
give it
a somersault
he learned from
a tu-tued bear.

He exasperates
all he really
knows,
trying to
resuscitate
this last
piece of
celluloid
self
for her
from his
nearly
featureless
body.

Something
trumbles
up his
tummy and
slowly
excommunicates
out of his
mouth.

It is her
cloying
vomit
all over
his black
unlit
protruding
lipstick.

Forever
he will
try to
lick it off
like a
difficult
detective
film.

Forever,
he will mouth
to it
in muted
ad-libs,
I know this
is a riff,
I hope this
is a riff.


PLAY-FIGHTING WITH THE GOLD GHOST

Some studs are watching us tonight,
pinking each other up
innocuously.
Our faces are sore and
the night is never really here yet.
That is what We are used to,
to the weakness of our teeth to the concrete
to the misfortune of having childlike feet.
We may not know the significance
of a minute,
but we know one sweet second
still exists.

I met my Buster Keaton preaching,
as always,
on the back of a
naval-picking truck.
His face, the celestial mistake,
makes me look and laugh away.

My dad said
anger isn’t really a word
but an empty box
for extension cords
from Home Depot.

Buster loves such words,
so he uses them
when screaming
at his congregation
who are not altogether there,
where he is not on a truck but in a tree
where he is not just rehearsing.

The sad air smells like Medusa,
so I often look and laugh away.
Such an angular mess.

Our cable lives together are nothing
but a silent t.
Somewhere inside the word movie,
we can get away
with anything.

I was born into his tumor.
He was born before sound.
Our married births were
a violent chess match
never played out.

I am soon the someone
in my living room,
screaming at his hapless picture–
the one that never screams back at me.

In the violating Redlands night,
our dustups are not so surprising.


LINCOLN MEMORIAL/ A MAN INSIDE A STATUE

I sit
picaresque,
on words
embraced
by absence–
a journey through
a dense second
a past that is never
a centrifuge
a hundred
hollow aldermen
wish to wish…
an ample bullet
my empty spit
my wish to wish…
I am now so hollow.

I once gave lust
with no sense of
the suffocating Adam’s apple
and the wonton idea of air
and the delicate garden flies
lurking on the mausoleum lilacs.

And from this
cabin night
I see absolute
prisoners suffering
like prisons
of decorated
young men
I could not
macerate
with a flick of a lip.

Men who died
on me in lust
and left me with
less than sin.

Who died for a war
no one will fight—
one with dazzling fear,
with no bodily
fluids left but
those which pin
to the wits
like a thousand
damp connections

I have a view—
I have appetites
I am afraid to reprove.
I am 6 4”,
startlingly thin
and in your
double bed.

I have never been
so locked in.

And now it is best
to let go of my future sons
and to dream of mouths–
not in the fleshy sense
or even the river sense,
for my mouth is already gone
for this man holds no history.


EATING THE NIGHT

Our San Timoteo
ghost town explodes.

So I wake up my wife
and sons,
implying a mad-dash
scream.

We are
enveloped
in a smoky place
where suffocation
does not exist.

Where no one
can ever hear us
but robber barons
and buried bodies.

Where our restful faces
smolder the blaring
Redlands air.

Where the sky feels like
one difficult
cob web
or a violent room
where no one will ever find us
where the daily news will never know us.


KATHY’S FUNERAL
(For Angela and her Mother)

Let us fasten your nose
to your vocal tones
and the symmetry of your eyes
to the velocity of your clothes.

And let us say you’re alive
and that no one can die
and the walls around eyes
can only comply
with the salt in the rain,
and that you haven’t planned
to begin all the plans
that your daughters and son
will soon have to make.

And your boy sees you now
always floating around
not defying the ground
but forgetting its name.

And when you meet my sons
and make quilts out of suns,
the heat is too much for my oldest to take,
so he colors your smile
as if teeth were ideas
and the gnashing you did was only his game.

And the root of my love is this horrible gift
and is gone from your mouth to
the rough of my lips,
and I wish you could smell
my wife’s head when she sleeps
and her sweat that is yours
and the breath you can’t keep.


Ryan Bartlett graduated from Mills College in 2002 with an MFA in poetry. In the past, Ryan was employed as an adjunct professor at Touro College and Yeshiva University in New York City. His work has been featured in Five Finger Review, Word Riot, The Chaffey Review, and the anthology, Involuntary Vision. He is currently an assistant professor at Crafton Hills College and the faculty advisor for the school’s literary magazine, The Sand Canyon Review. Ryan lives in Redlands with his wife and two sons.
Ryan

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2 Responses to “Ryan Bartlett”

  1. Ryan Bartlett Says:

    Thanks to V.E. and Trevor for this wonderful opportunity.

  2. saudade Says:

    Brilliant work. Thank you Ryan, V.E., and Trevor!


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