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Jonathan Yungkans: California Poets Part 3, Three Poems

Jonathan Yungkans

June 25th, 2021

California Poets: Part III

Jonathan Yungkans

Three Poems

Departing Backwards with Undue Haste after John Ashbery A black hole promises eternity, becomes a bad barbecue, the potato salad ptomainic in its effervescent rancidness, Zoloft mixed into the lemonade, and K.C. Masterpiece— now with Thorazine. People play horseshoes, say gratitude is a ringer. Like I want to remain grateful for respiration. There’s no atmosphere in outer space or in a tête-à-tête wrapped tight around my head. Who cares if the brisket chokes a Clydesdale? Bring the Budweiser. Let’s marinate our sorrows past dessert. Those puddings are neither just nor sweet enough for social respectability. They’ll give you diabetes and a Ginsu knife that saws steel cans and concrete but won’t help a damn with the psych bill. Yes, I’m grateful for oxygen, not grateful about gratitude. Is that ungrateful? There’s no Jim Bean in sight to burnish a caramel sheen onto thickening weariness or the brown-sugar crunch cake on which flies host a barn dance. Pretend flies are raisins— be thankful for the protein or people will start conversing. Chelsea Handler, where are my pharmaceuticals when eyes stare like I’m wind, kicking up dust and papers? Purple once was a people eater. Now it comes in pill form—Wellbutrin. Sugarcoat my mood so I glow in the dark and become a star.

Covid Vaccination The afternoon line was nowhere near the ducks swimming on the lake at Lincoln Park, munching popcorn a couple of teenagers were tossing toward the water. The sun had stayed masked until lunchtime. June gloom in drooping eyes, barely a word in the undercaffeinated sky. Wind was kicking up when I returned, dust clouds and gangs of leaves skittering on asphalt. Gusts flipped over the USC Pharmacy tents, upstart kids picking up a side, tossing the canopy and running away before the captive audience of the snaking line past an otherwise vacant playground— silent slides, motionless swings— toward check-in. Injections. The 15-minute wait to make sure there were no side-effects. My co-worker’s beaming face when he forgot to get his vaccination card and the nurses chased him down to turn and shepherd him into that line— while my left arm felt like someone kept punching it from my shot that morning and the ducks swam onto shore and rested, beaks tucked under wings.

Pierced Full of Holes by the Evil That Is Not Evil after John Ashbery It’s like the message I got from a church friend, about how I was becoming increasingly liberal, like some blossoming magnolia tree whose bark was becoming patched with rust or blight. I look at photographs and video of National Guardsmen sleeping on the marble floor of the U.S. Capitol, motionless as piles of autumn leaves, camouflage blotches of fatigues and backpacks only adding incongruences of a forest growing out of stone. I think of Santa Anita Canyon, where bush maples split granite boulders as they press upward. Those trees had reminded me before now of resilience— that even with only a toehold onto which to cling, I could pull myself from depression, not plummet isolated to smash below. Maybe a selfish notion— those roots still force themselves, pry things apart to assert themselves, spread and deepen their hold. You expect me next to mention the screaming mass at the Capitol, who seeded the forest of Guardsmen, blowing ice shards, clouds of pepper spray in their winter storm? Or the faceless, helmeted, Kevlar-clad lines of authority shadowing masses who shouted Black lives matter in heated gusts over summer— not orange-gold of acres of trees going up at once, a fire-beast seeming to inhale whole counties, exhale heaps of powdered ash. Nor was it a controlled burn— is controlled pulling over folks for driving while black, like shaking trees until the leaves drop, stay stock-still, and trunks smile daylight? It’s controlling, like seeing a match or candle gutter out as what little air or fuel is left inside of it dissipates. But is a tapir controlled? Merely abandoned? Abandonment blazed. Travelled in sparks and embers and Clown, emissary of chaos, said this fire was bad. Bad for being a cleansing fire? For hungering to devour brush along the forest floor, thorns which drew blood? For finding thick glades between tall buildings, pools of dried blood sunk between pieces of gravel in asphalt? Guardsmen sleep and I think of smatterings of scarlet, yellow, brown in the gutter of a winding mountain road— how Clown said there was nothing evil in winter, a storm is a storm is a storm. But in which rustle is good or bad? In what crack spreading in stone? Clown told us before we should be raking leaves, as if a rake’s metallic scratch could stop the wind.

Author Bio:

Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer and a contributing editor to Gleam: A Journal of the Cadralor. While working as an in-home health-care provider, he earned an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has been featured in The Blue Mountain Review, Synkroniciti, San Pedro Poetry Review and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published by Tebor Bach in 2021.


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