Four Poems
​Bums’ Park Yoga Class

Our wives twist to the sky
and become glistened divas 
offering their hands like wafts
of smoke. We stare
from the patio bar and listen 
to the elegant “oohhhmmms” 
and sip our craft beers. 

Nothing is allowed its own 
silence so oldies music 
rises across the renewed park. 
The amphitheater combs its locks; 
dignified statues politely stare 
into the golden corporations. 
                                              But the bums
have been displaced 
closer to the cheap real estate
on the Missouri and I remember them 
sleeping like bushes 
along the busy intersection.
Large hollow, modern sculptures
rose from the sloped landscaping.
They stared like empty headstones
arranged in eternal resonance.
They were hauled away, 
too. Unwanted.  

Party in Paris, Max Beckmann    

The canvas is a warm reddish hive
filled with jagged faces creased downward.

On the eve of the Third Reich,
businessmen, socialites, and artists are composed,

the room jammed with angles. 
Paintings hold up the walls. Light 

cannot enter closed eyes.
Very casual, this sexuality,

the supple flesh now lived in,
all matter in sloped poses. The gravity

of studied boredom burns from lapels. 
A loud Russian guffaws in the background;

it would be rude to notice.
Instead they pretend to hold 

mortal concerns at bay.
Dinner jackets and evening gowns 

arranged across the room. 
The world has grown this way.

Sidewalk Litany

Cracks in the neighborhood sidewalk 
become a fresh sidewalk back 45 years.
The ribbon wound along a hill 
in the local park where a small pond winked 
with darters and bullheads swam 
to shore to swallow fallen mulberries.  

My father built a wooden go-kart
out of scrap lumber, rope, and tricycle wheels.
After Dad sanded the seat, Mark and I 
carefully slopped yellow paint 
on the sides. A day after the paint dried,
Dad suggested we pull the “jalopy” 
over a few hills to the new sidewalk 
next to the park pavilion. So we pushed
the kart over to the park and took turns 
driving but soon discovered the ground too soft
and bumpy, so he pulled and I pushed.

We were shaky 
on how the go-kart 
would coast 
down the sidewalk
but soon the wind 
whistled in our ears 
and we spent 
the day tearing down 
that gray path, 
golfers dodging 
our wooden sled
as we growled 
race-car sounds. 

I can feel the cement give in this brittle sidewalk.
The park sidewalk is long gone, my brother
stunned with schizophrenia, dead, Father long dead. 
I always see Dad in the distance, his hands 
alive with a cigarette; wind flutters 
in his baggy work pants, his hair’s curly and black,
my brother’s smile wide as sky.

View of Saintes-Maries with Cemetery, Vincent Van Gogh

Not in the least how 
wonderful it seemed 
as the daggers of paint 
wormed across the field

from dry departed rows. 
Reduction creased against
the distant light 
that came into view. 

In walks from homes,
we stood where we died 
and flinched at what 
we had become. 

We were led here, 
given every breath
in a machete 
of brush strokes. 

We left alone and we 
always leave again 
and again until we 
cannot recall the wonder.

MICHAEL CATHERWOOD's first book was Dare, by The Backwaters Press. His second book, If You Turned Around Quickly, is from Main Street Rag. His third book, Projector, is forthcoming from Stephen F. Austin Press in 2017. His poems have recently appeared in Bluestem, Louisiana Literature, Measure, the minnesota review, New Plains Review, Solstice, Red River Review, Galway Review, and other journals. He has taught creative writing at the University of Arkansas, University of Omaha/Nebraska, and Creighton University. He’s been an associate editor at Plainsongs since 1995, where he writes essays.
The Adirondack Review