Poetry from E. Martin Pedersen

Four Poems by E. Martin Pedersen

Bumming a Third Class Train

The Germ Theory of disease
goes out the stuck-open window
of a third class train
Luxor to Cairo
in a cloudy glass of Nile water
passed around like a bong in a dorm
by grinning gentlemen in dresses,
then sleeping curled like a doe
on a tottering wood bench
back to the oasis, where I need to go.


A Century of Accumulation

Back when doubt
wasn’t a way of life
Back in the one-song-per-person days
the die-standing-up days
survival of the meanest or luckiest
to follow the shining road
to goodies after passage
watch your husband’s beard grow
hear the washing flap the line
no categories
no meteorology
no playing cards
Granddad in Seward, Alaska Territory
kept his family in a tent
covered twenty feet high with snow
all winter seven sons and a daughter
on elk and brown bear
hide shoes, potbelly stove
fishbone toothpicks
and the Holy Bible
chopping eternal wood
alongside Teddy Roosevelt.

What difference
solitaire and/or self-expression
If peace of mind
pursueth not
what love is really
what life is really
couched in billions of stars
we can’t keep count
billions of T-shirts
billions of options
reflex emotions
we’re buried alive
crushed under the cadavers
growing soft
unable to cough
we have too much
we have it all
except what
they had —
not all.


Harmony in Numbers

Let’s live rectangularly
not triangularly
or circularly
Let’s try to see things in straight lines for a change
crossing each other neatly at regular intervals
Let’s live by lists of priorities
of short-term and long-term goals
Let’s cultivate regular habits
physical and moral
and pass them on
to the next generation.

Because if we let our hair go
toke up first thing in the morning
take into our hearts the WTF attitude
scarf fries by 3’s and 4’s
think what for? What for? What for?
The whole show goes balls up
it ain’t funny no more
we get sick and lose our minds

My adolescence would have been different
had I had perfect teeth
rows of pianokey soldiers,
I would have had a sudsy-wudsy life
fame, wealth, adventure, happy endings

But I tied myself into a contortionist’s knot
crawled into a box
about yea big
covered in symbols illegible
I’m transportable
my his-story, sentimentalisms, terrors
the center, the edge, concentric borders
the last in line
pass time and wind
Can I breathe in here?

The solution I need
to recover and follow
escape, flourish
the 1, 2, 3, 4
on and on
Come to me.


Me and the Beast

Yes, when the beast sat across from me in the waiting room
I hated her
when I realized I was infected too
when we made love and she was inside me
our collusion began
now she scares me precisely
because she shadows me.

in the marked-off square of a provincial capital between the city hall and the
there’s a festival, colored lights and streamers
orange drink and sweet corn,
under a black sky-roof
two boys hold my palms, their father my friend drifted away with the flotsam
cherry bombs go off, rockets straight up and down onto tight-as-match heads
men start laughing and howling
nurses cannot get through to the fainted and burned
drunks fight with their claws like cats in a barrel
cops cannot reach them and they begin to fight
everyone I see’s drunk and fighting, hurt and bleeding
housewives, neighbors, English teachers, Roman Catholics
bombs and rockets, screaming and burning skin, embers falling like confetti
the church roof is on fire
but we cower in its locked doorway anxiously unable to get home

in the stuffy open quadrant where the roads intersect before the huge mosque
pushed around by people at a party, come on, it’s a holiday, holy day
cartwheels and chickpeas, clapping and chanting
everyone’s happy, pushing, singing Carnival in Rio and the Beer Barrel Polka
pious men in a dimly lit room whirling away the night,
we see them twirl from outside in their elegant wine-color dresses and pill-box hats
outside too are virtuous people, they do not steal
except one man in a thousand, screaming in terror
when the nine hundred nighty nine shout “Get him, thief!”
he’s broken the law, you see, we must bring him to justice;
thousands of long arms grab at him like living jungle vines, like flesh-eaters
as he madly shoots right past my shoulder
and his animal eyes beg for mercy he will not get

in the ring around the diamond
a tiered coliseum where gladiators meet – all ticking
everyone knows the true meaning of “Strike!” “Steal!” “Charge!”
keeping us on the brink as we sit back down, stand up, sing out
hotdog wrappers and seagulls spin above the field
if we were just a little warmer, I’m afraid
I’m afraid when we yell, when I yell, louder than the rest, more convinced sounding
BEAT LA, I hate LA, don’t wear blue, we won’t traffic with you
BEAT LA down the next block,
we are the righteous gang of colors orange and black
standing tall in a Mr. Clean judgment pose, we growl out our human growth hormones
where is the advantage in kicking a man when he’s down, beating the weaker opponent?
frankly we are disgusted by the dust devil that broke out of the cage and ripped and

beat LA and busted through all the windows —

and still somehow

let the light and the fresh air in.


E. Martin Pedersen, originally from San Francisco, has lived in eastern Sicily for over 35 years. He teaches English at the local university. His poetry has appeared in Former People, scarlet Review, Ink in Thirds, Oddville, Revue Post and others. Martin blogs at: emartinpedersenwriter.blogspot.it. 

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A Malawian online literary magazine that publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

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