Short Poem

by Martina Reisz Newberry


It was a rough night.
Telephone poles and cell towers
played “Mr. Interlocutor” 
to the palm trees 
who clowned and danced
to the rhythms 
of strong winds
below the canyons.*

*R.I.P. Larry Kramer


There are nights when darkness 
doesn’t fall but comes 
as an open mouth– 
swallows everything:  
sky, earth, concrete, trees, gravel–
after which, it comes for houses: 
doors, stairs, brickwork, bedrooms 
and basements. 

Night is the time we see 
that nothing in the lives 
of human beings is rational. 
Our own resouces are limited, 
Hell’s rhetoric is endless 
and the tick-tock inside our heads 
brings the bed pillows to life 
so that they squirm and heave 
through our darkened dreams.  

Lights out, we say.
Good Night, we say.
Sweet Dreams, we say.
See ya’ in the mornin’! we say.

Though there is the kiss 
on the cheek or forehead, 
the pat on the shoulder, 
a wave of the hand, 
we lie down knowing that 
contact is not the same 
as connection,
that touch and transgression
can both be final. 


Ocean waves, 
posturing and roaring, 
clawing at the rocks 
like people gone insane. 
The sun sneaks looks, 
then hides, 
not at all certain where it ought to be.

In the end, I guess 
it’s all about beauty 
and pathos 
and the never-ending 
examination of clouds 
and what will come from them.

*hors d’oeuvre 

	Back out of all this now too much for us…
			~Robert Frost,  “Directive”

My God, the noise! The relentless moaning, 
the ceaseless wailing of these last seven years! 
And isn’t seven supposed to be a lucky number?  

Do you remember when walking 
to your own kitchen didn’t feel 
like wandering the deck of a listing ship? 

Do you remember when fatal 
was an unusual word? Do you remember 
when it was nearly Christmas and you weren’t worried 

about caged children, entire nations starving, 
a melting earth, or the brand-new biological enemy 
guaranteed to kill you?             Nor do I. 

Every silence is shattered by stainless steel tears 
from the eyes of our fathers and their mothers 
and their grandfathers and their first and second cousins 

lined up, keening and rocking, believing they've failed 
at creating safe spaces. Where is true sleep? Snores of fear and anger 
and confusion bang away at each others’ bedroom windows; 

one week of sweet dreaming and we are awakened 
by gunfire and bomb blasts, the screamng of the trapped 
and the soon to be dead. There are no more quiet places–

no more shade trees, front porches, church pews, 
or meeting houses where war and worse can’t find us, 
dangle us from their knees over the hot ashes 

of family and friendships burned in anger.  
The lies are endless: Better days ahead, We’ll look 
on the bright side, Follow the law and we’ll all be O.K. 

The only truth left is that there are two sides 
to everything and both sides smell 
like garbage and gunpowder.  

And here am I, at a small diner, coffee in front of me. 
The homeless people walk by with their carts 
and their crumbs of layered clothing. 

An old man with one eye waves at me. 
“Hello,” I call out. 
“Hello to you!”


Mother, it has taken me
most of my lifetime 
to accept that you birthed
me as any animal bears another, 
wishing for it to be over 
so that she can be on her animal way–
looking for food and meaning 
in the same places.

Mother, I came into this world tame, 
docile, never wanting to be trouble 
to anyone. I never craved respect, 
only the popsicle sweetness 
of love and loyalty. 
James Dickey said he knew 
what monsters know. 

I doubt that. 
I think you have to birth
a monster to know what they know.

*James Dickey’s poem, “The Sheep Child”  was published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1966,. The poem describes a part-human, part-sheep baby in a jar at a museum in Atlanta, Georgia. It can be found here: or in Dickey’s book, The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992 (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

Martina Reisz Newberry is a Los Angeles based poet. Her most recent book is BLUES FOR FRENCH ROAST WITH CHICORY, available from Deerbrook Editions. She is the author of NEVER COMPLETELY AWAKE (from Deerbrook Editions), WHERE IT GOES (Deerbrook Editions), LEARNING BY ROTE (Deerbrook Editions) and RUNNING LIKE A WOMAN WITH HER HAIR ON FIRE: Collected Poems (Red Hen Press). All books are available here: Bookshoppe.