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Lee Ballentine (Western Voices 2020)

Exclusive: Western Voices, 2020: Edited by Scott Thomas Outlar
Bio: Surrealist Lee Ballentine’s poems have appeared in Abraxas, ACM, Caliban, Denver Quarterly, Drive They Said, Exquisite Corpse, Mississippi Mud, Painted Bride, Portland Review, and many other magazines, journals, and anthologies, and he is the author of seven books of poetry. His literary and publishing papers have been acquired by Ohio State University for its Avant Writing.

Donna Snyder’s poetry collections include Poemas ante el Catafalco:  Grief and Renewal (Chimbarazu), I Am South (Virgogray), and The Tongue Has its Secrets (NeoPoiesis).  Her poetry and book reviews appear in many publications including such journals and anthologies as Red Fez, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, VEXT Magazine, BorderSenses, Mezcla, Inanna’s Ascent, and Speak the Language of the Land.




HOW WE KNOW THINGS 

first, intimately
entire and sudden like a fall of rain

later, less well
as time fritters on them

then, in parts
we labor to connect

melancholy, disconnected ships
 in a flotilla of change

and then, for a long time
only by accident and stumbling

finally, not at all
some stranger getting wet for the first time




Lament for the end of the world
Collaboration with Donna Snyder

no more sweet dreams
of granite, jade, and glue
offered or permitted
& no scowls

the order of the day is death
but the hundred episodes of death
are not permitted now
only two or three

a few coughs, fever, then death
a quick goodbye, then death
its bones gleaming
like a pearl-handled revolver

death in the bed
death beside the bed, not in it
outside
white streets and stone steps lit by the sun

inside
an aching back, then death
a twisted neck
lungs burning like Australian brush fires

dirt burning underneath the floor
creatures falling from the sky at my back door
then nothing . . .
an empty train, an empty car

a singer who incants but who does not wake
any more
no more sweet dreams
but colors in the evening sky

and the soft thuds
hitting the ground




but silence is never silent
Collaboration with Donna Snyder

Like an ultimatum of birds gone to their winter nests,
I refuse to speak in the shadowed echoes of your applause.
Like things you will never hear again, sounds tremble as they fall,
leaving nothing but your voice telling me what I cannot be.
As my honest self fades to gray, I hear its damp echo.
A machine preaches tolerance, but I see only scowls.
The eruption of unbidden tears. Imperfect duplicates.
A divided spirit—sonorous voice, gregarious smile—
belies the familiar fist. The slammed door and bruised spirit.
Heartache demands shame’s silence.

But silence is never silent. Car doors slam. Jets
roar through dirty sky. Distant dogs complain.
Choppers enforce imaginary lines between Us and Them.
Or maybe bear torn flesh, twisted bodies, the comma of death.
Train tracks thunder a despot’s rage that stops for nothing.
A teacup knocked to the floor, a tympani of windows and roof,
a glorious vibration, the sound of fragile metal, a car
dropped to the concrete floor of a garage in the next block.
Pigeons trill sweetly, then scold anyone without seed.
Water flows through pipes like the presence of god.

Breath rattles through tubes of flesh and dying lungs.
Snub nosed dogs snort and snore in irregular rhythms,
like the voice of ghosts from beyond a non-existent wall.
They cannot stop telling stories of all that’s long forgot.
Footfalls from wooden floors where no feet walk.
I breathe poisoned hills and smell toxic water. My life
demolished like a listing shed in the rail yards.
Lost as the travelers who never returned home
bathed in the midwinter scent of a sea’s perfume.
The migratory odor of abandonment lingers,

and I have nothing to say to you.
The waves you would not see
shimmer like a mirror of clouded ice
gone frozen over the falls.

1 comment:

  1. Collaborating with Lee Ballentine was a great honor, a gift of generosity that I will cherish always. Many thanks to Setu and especially to Scott Thomas Outlar for publishing our colaborations as well as individual poems from both of us.

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