Bill Cushing (Western Voices 2023)

Bio: Bill Cushing’s work has appeared in anthologies, literary journals, magazines, and newspapers. He facilitates a writing workshop for 9 Bridges Writers Community. His 2019 poetry collection, A Former Life won a Kops-Fetherling International Book Award. His chapbook Music Speaks won the 2019 San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Award and medaled in the 2021 New York City Book Awards. His most recent poetry chapbook is “. . .this just in. . .”. Bill is now in the process of releasing A Little Cage of Bone, a new book of poems with Southern Arizona Press. He is revising a memoir focused on his years serving in the U. S. Navy and later working on commercial vessels before he returned to college.


Gone already, forever?

Well, I wanted forever.



in scrapbooks and drawers—

bare bones, evidence

of failure:

ticket stubs to La Traviata;

I wish it had been Wagner.

I could have been with you that much longer.

Others—one whole,

one torn—from the show

I saw alone.


There’s a picture in my wallet.

A friend, a woman, told me

that being there

is “really making it”. 

I don’t dare remove it.

I don’t want to see it.

I do, actually, but

looking at your image

            smiling, hair

            falling over shoulders,

            holding the son

            I never had,

won’t bring you any nearer, nor

put you any farther, and

it’s as close

as I ever got


to you.


(Excerpt from Just a Little Cage of Bone)





The night before you die, you wake at four

hearing the waves and the breathing shore,

the promise of the appalling air,

the compass needle dead on terror.


I stop at the border of dreams;

Norweigian Munch let out a silent scream.

An obstacle was often there,

but I guess I’m here. So I must take care.


There are lives in which nothing goes right:

a lonely impulse of delight,
the season of the lying equinox,

the heart that fed and the hand that mocked.


After the first astronauts reached heaven,

The voice was gravel, the gravel grain and then,

promised the permanence,

picture the resemblance.


*With thanks to Louise Bogan, Jim Carroll, Constantine Cavafy, Stephen Dobyns, William Everson (aka Brother Antonius), Carolyn Forche, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Galway Kinnell, Philip Levine, Robert Lowell, Heather McHugh, W. S. Merwin, Reynolds Price, Carl Sandburg, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Butler Yeats, and especially my 9 Bridges cohorts.

(Excerpt from Just a Little Cage of Bone)




Allow me to die well.

As others worshipped at the altar of fear,

while waiting for the promised apocalypse

and any end times of drought.

I asked no quarter but this: to make my own rules


Allow me to die stout

because being shy doesn’t help. The first time

I saw a jet fighter, I shot it down; then,

using a broom handle and in pain, I broke

an unbreakable barrier and punched the sky.


Allow me to die acute

knowing the best of us aren’t born, that those

who attain greatness make themselves

by experience and with eagerness, and at that moment

of truth, there are either excuses or results.


Allow me to die in peace,

neither speculating what comes next nor regretting

lost youth. I might move back but would never

concede, and the only milestone I missed

was making it to a century.


(Excerpt from Just a Little Cage of Bone)


1 comment :

  1. these are lovely, the cento is really interesting!


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