Tag Archives: J.B. Hogan

J.B. Hogan

A Dry Country

 

Crossing the plains toward Amboseli

the earth was so dry

dust devils spun up into the air

like dirty brown tornadoes, moved

jerkily across the land, harming nothing

in their path.

 

The ground was barren, gray,

cracked and spread open

waiting, waiting for the rain,

rain that would not come.

 

Seven years and no rainy season,

rivers empty, trees unleafed,

animals nervous, chattery,

skin taught, ribs showing.

 

In the dying forests,

trees knocked down by elephants, upturned

and stripped of bark, roots – woods flattened

as if by bulldozer or bombing run.

 

By the shrinking waterholes,

deadly competition, prey and predator

intermixed in unexpected union, with

the weak and sick pushed aside;

and beyond: the dead, bellies bloated and

splitting open, decomposing,

lifeless eyes staring into the yellow heat

of the blinding, merciless sun.

 

Circling a Famous Author

 

He was sitting on a

black waiting room lounge chair

in Heathrow Airport and you could tell

he was a pretty tall man.

 

His hair was thick and tousled,

going gray at the edges, and

he wore big brown eye-glasses,

utilitarian rather than fashionable.

 

A guy across the room seemed to recognize him,

at first could only muster an occasional peek

over the edge of an overpriced paperback.

 

He might have been trying to come up with a

Billy Pilgrim reference or a pithy remark like

“everything is beautiful and nothing hurt” but

he didn’t look like he could muster the courage.

 

Finally, he did make a move,

started walking around the waiting room

making loops around the famous author,

behind him, off to the right, then in front,

back to the left – repeat, repeat again.

 

By the second revolution it was all too obvious, but

the guy tried to be discreet, only daring a furtive glance here and there,

maybe pretending he wasn’t acting like a hick on Broadway,

hoping he was being way cool.

 

On loop three, the writer finally looked up,

took notice of the circler, shook his big head,

smiled a small, tired smile.

 

The guy hurried back to his seat and immediately

re-immersed himself in the neglected paperback.

Ten minutes passed before he dared

look over his book at the waiting room again.

By then the famous author was safely off to his plane and

the circler was safely formulating his own fiction

of the close encounter he had had with the

famous, unapproachable American writer.

Avenue of the Dead – Teotihuacan

 

They crossed the dusty Avenue of the Dead,

Pyramids of Sun and Moon on the left

in the distance towering above the dry Mexican land

walking into the less imposing Ciudadela with

its symmetrically aligned series of shorter

platforms on the way to see Quetzalcoatl,

feathered serpent god, with

newer structure covering old;

standing in between on a plywood plank

staring straight into the round eyes of water diety Tlaloc

amid the mystery of long forgotten rituals and processions of

long forgotten Teotihuacanos, priests and warriors replaced

by tourists, guides and trinket hawkers

under a blazing Meshican sun, voices modulating loud or low

nearby and amid dozens of people she said into a hot breeze:

“Can you hear it? Can you hear the sounds of the past;

cries, pleas, people living and breathing, their history

gliding, floating on the winds of time?”

He listened carefully, for voices in the air,

felt wind on his face, listened more intently yet,

not wanting to disappoint:

“Yes,” his uncertain answer, “I can. I can hear

them in the wind, across time.”

She took his hand in hers and they started back

across the Ciudadela, returned to the Avenue of the Dead,

then down towards the great pyramids.

The bright sun shone down harshly,

but they blocked it out with raised hands,

walked on silently, certain in the fidelity

of time and wind.

________________________________________________________________

J. B. Hogan was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize for his story “Kerosene Heat.” His dystopian novel New Columbia was published in Aphelion and his prize-winning e-book Near Love Stories is online at Cervena Barva Press. He has many stories and poems in such journals as: Cynic Online Magazine, Istanbul Literary ReviewEvery Day PoetsRanfurly Review, and the Dead Mule. His work has been anthologized in Flash of Aphelion and Best of Tales from the South: Volume 6. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

 

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Poetry

By. J.B. Hogan

Reading a Dickens Biography in Spanish – Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Outside the hotel room in Puerto Escondido –

soft sandy beaches, waves big enough to surf,

a resort town rising up a steep hill to

cantina, café, and tourist shop.

 

Inside the hotel room in Puerto Escondido –

cheap painting on wall, old unvarnished wooden chair,

garish lamp shining down on small bedside table;

and a biography of Charles Dickens in Spanish.

 

Between meals and body surfing, then,

rediscovering the man, the work,

alive again in a colorful second language,

translated, catalogued, envisioned images of:

offal-strewn London streets,

chimney-sweeps, blackened and filthy,

rapacious entrepreneurs, dredged from the

foul underbelly of the industrial revolution.

 

But pleasure in reading, too,

pleasure and renewed joy in

recognition, remembrance of

Mr. Dickens, without whom the world

would have been colder, harsher and

immeasurably less entertaining.

Dickens in America

1842

Nineteen days on the packet Brittania from Liverpool,

nineteen days of the churning, rolling North Atlantic,

making Boston harbor at last, a British re-invasion.

 

Mr. Dickens, wife and maid, feted, cheered,

celebrated in New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, the wild prairie of distant Illinois.

Traveling on corduroy roads, steamships, by longed for train.

George Putnam recording all – both strange and wonderful,

and in Washington, an amiable visit with John Tyler.

 

But asylums, too, prisons, and Richmond in the south,

abhorrent slavery – the “domestic situation,”

stumping for international protection, copyright laws

protecting all authors, their right to earn.

 

Suddenly a quick diminishing of welcome,

trip going sour, notes to be developed,

American critique to come.

Last salvo hurled: not the republic

he had come to see,

not the one of his imagination.

 

Retracing the North Atlantic, back home

at last, America safely in the distance

even more fame to come.

 

1867-68

Civil war settled, past differences assuaged,

American beckon proffered, the lord of writ returned.

Once more in Boston, the eastern tour repeated,

twenty-five years on,

the western urge restrained.

 

Full houses everywhere, packed and cheering loud,

five successful months in country,

seventy-six extraordinary performances,

a staggering triumph,

some £20,000 taken in.

 

Joyous time unparalleled, but

underneath: a crushing truth.

Age coming swiftly, its ails and troubles growing,

the end not far from sight.

 

One last reading to thunderous applause,

Final reconciliation with the colonies,

home awaiting the ultimate curtain call.

 

He and America, he told those reporting,

were changed forever more,

slavery gone and author rights improving,

a better place for all.

 

Both had grown apace, together and afar,

one left to press on into an uncertain future,

the other to the certainty of immortal death.

________________________________________________________________

J. B. Hogan was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize for his story “Kerosene Heat.” His dystopian novel New Columbia was published in Aphelion and his prize-winning e-book Near Love Stories is online at Cervena Barva Press. He has many stories and poems in such journals as: Cynic Online Magazine, Istanbul Literary ReviewEvery Day PoetsRanfurly Review, and the Dead Mule. His work has been anthologized in Flash of Aphelion and Best of Tales from the South: Volume 6. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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J. B. Hogan

Semenovski Square

Was a blanket of snow,
the frozen air filled with icy breath
of horse and soldier – and the condemned.

On the scaffolding, Feodor stood,
all Saint Petersburg before him,
white, cold, distant.

Below, tied to wooden stakes,
unrepentant, unhooded Petrashevski,
poor Mombelli, fragile Grigoriev,
waited, waited, rifles aimed at their heads.

Above, Feodor, next in line, sought peace
from agitation, the certainty of impending death,
in reconciliation, accommodation,
saw sunlight flash on church steeple beyond,
flashing light of uncertainty, of terrible truth,
of final, unknowable mystery.

But then, the roll of drums, the prayer of prayers answered,
the reprieve, the benevolence of kind Nicholas,
the prisoners unbound, the true sentence read.

Grigoriev hence mad, Petrashevski defiant still,
Feodor in transports of relief, the years of exile to come
a prickly balm for his epileptic soul,
a seething fire for his raging ambition,
the incandescent spark for his explosive genius.

Xochicalco

Wind, dry and hot, coursing over
ruins, brown grass rustling,
miniature dust storms spinning.
Beyond, closer, an oval, light blue lake and
further, dry looking mountains, gray and
distant, smoke plumes rising from unknown fires.
Below, the usual ball field, reminder of
ancient ritual, heart sacrifice, bloody knife-wielding priests.
Beside, around, gray-stoned temples, reconstructed,
to feathered serpent god, and about
broken walls of homes, empty now
a millennium and half again.
Nearby, past squat pyramid and
erect, unfathomable stele,
an entrance, a cave, dark and uninviting,
vague light centered, awaiting solar equinox and
brilliant yellow shining beam.
Xochicalco, on leveled hilltop,
life long extinguished yet remembered,
among the heat and wind of summer still
one hundred fifteen decades on.

Anecdote of the Jaw: 
Wallace Stevens and a Large Puddle of Water

February 1936, long, tall,
over-weight and middle-aging
Wallace Stevens, most excellent insurance company poet,
having exhausted his latest traditional spat
with Mr. Robert Frost, sought out bigger game,
at an upscale Key West soiree.

Drinking too much, as was his wont,
the executive bard trash-mouthed
the great Papa bear in company
with baby sister bear Ursula
and made her cry – all the way home
to big brother.

Confronted on the street by Papa, 36,
the actuarial verse-smith, 56, put dukes up,
swung wildly at the shorter, stocky man.
Papa, in a testosterone fit, wiped up
the wet street with the taller, heavier
word-worker – sending him sprawling
into a puddle of water.

Up came swinging, the big modernist icon,
his fist catching Papa’s jaw flush,
and shattering itself, and not the bear’s jaw,
in two distinct places.

Down again went Wallace, faster than Max Schmeling,
and again, until he was so beaten, bloody, and battered,
the large bear took pity and stopped.

No reason to tell anybody about this, Mr. Stevens,
the loser, suggested to his literary over-match.
None whatsoever, agreed Papa,
although nice letters to Dos Passos and Mrs. Murphy,
revealed the joy and pride he took in pounding
the daylights out of the sometimes drunkenly obnoxious
past his prime insurance company vice-president poet.

________________________________________________________________

J. B. Hogan was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize for his story “Kerosene Heat.” His dystopian novel New Columbia was published in Aphelion and his prize-winning e-book Near Love Stories is online at Cervena Barva Press. He has many stories and poems in such journals as: Cynic Online Magazine, Istanbul Literary Review, Every Day Poets, Ranfurly Review, and the Dead Mule. His work has been anthologized in Flash of Aphelion and Best of Tales from the South: Volume 6. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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