Paul B. Roth Featured Poet

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Paul B. Roth

Ashvamegh Featured Poet for February 2016,  Issue XIII


Introduction to the poet:


Poems by Paul B. Roth
Paul B. Roth

Paul B. Roth has been published widely in the United States and his work has been translated and appeared in journals from Japan, Israel, Bolivia, China, Mexico, Romania, Estonia and the UK. He is the author of seven collections of poetry of which his three most current are Cadenzas by Needlelight (CypressBooks, 2009), Words the Interrupted Speak (March Street Press, 2011), and Long Way Back to the End (Rain Mountain Press, 2014). He lives in the village of Fayetteville in upstate New York where he’s served as editor and publisher of The Bitter Oleander Press since 1974.










Told I have nothing to say makes when I need to speak, but don’t,

Fused by a lifetime of lies my mouth can’t part its lips nor can the sun
melting its clear drip of moss filtered water wash them clean.

Instead a fog so dense every flashlight shine swarms millions of miniature
rainbows in their midst.

Dancing intertwined in mid-air, each one, raises more than just an eyebrow
above its violin bow and plays on.






                      I begin by breaking myself into smaller and smaller pieces. My
hands  are, of course, the last to go but neither one’s figured out which will go
last. If only one remains, then who’s going to finish the job? This they argue in a
sign language  rich  with ricochetting  consonants off their  fingernails and side-
kicks that inflect the noisy cracking of their knuckles. They  intertwine, sharing
each’s life with  the other, but  because their strength  and dexterity are so
comparably different, neither can do a thing except clap once with the other in
hopes of signaling the entrance of someone who might bow low to them in
service. Of course, nothing of the kind happens and, what’s more, no one of the
kind appears. Instead, each’s fingernails grow longer, sharper, and more jagged
than ever before. It no longer matters that no single one has the capacity to
destroy the other. All they can do is wait for some other lap to appear in which
their supine palms might either rest during a string quartet performance or else
start sweating inside the little fists future humans at their birth will clench
without knowing they already have a body attached to help them do just that.






                        If stepping from this door, I never stop falling and slip into  infinity, I’ll consider myself lucky. I won’t have to wait very long for designs to take shape where high pressure water sprayed from firehoses rips open new hairlines across the foreheads of unwanted and disillusioned Tuscaloosa students. Already disputed by yearbook historians, just look at how their faces have been misrepresented by some moral truth adopted to surreptitiously vindicate the horrible souls of their current ancestors. It’s somehow a way of living with oneself, a way of no longer feeling one’s own bloodied and calloused knuckles crushing the flesh and bone of time’s elongated face. Yet it’s also another way of not allowing the brilliant smirk of a saxophone to be usurped by the noise morning rush-hour traffic backs up inside one’s own punctured eardrums.




                        The heart has only itself to blame. Quickening and slowing its own destruction, beat after beat, delivering and receiving, until either sucker punched by love or some underfunded defibrillator. This bloody muscle pumps us through every moment of sleep, dream and wakefulness, every breath, every tear, every loss, every embrace, swallow, sadness, sneeze and unwritten word in the weariness of evening before the last birds at nightfall sing what for us is a vocal sky. And then, nothing. Nothing but those who come to take all we’ve given, all we have to offer, all we have left and before long nothing remains to satisfy their growing demand. It’s no use. Nothing’s left anywhere of anything, at least, nothing that used to be here, that used to be so available, so plentiful, until it was taken for granted, used, enslaved, cultivated, raised, cross-bred, genetically modified, harvested and wasted from scratch just the way every other civilization before us acted when they believed too much in themselves. And now, all are gone save those dead ones who still linger around us, the prescribed ones with their wild-eyed hurt and confused look walking desolate shopping malls at dawn in rhythm to the shuffle of a music composed in part by rubbing the scuffed bottoms of their two worn bedroom slippers together.




                       We’re told there are only so many left. Each one’s been carefully plucked from its box. The silky textured newsprint in which they’ve been individually wrapped and sealed blackens our fingertips and impresses the night. We line them up. No single one is the same. A waning moon arrays their curves, lines, overhangs, folds and contours, capturing uneven shadows in a myriad of gashed, chipped and cracked corner edges. How few have survived, moving in and out of so many civilization’s grasping hands. Accumulating a camouflage of airborne dust and blowing candles out at eternity’s last birthday, they appear to pass unseen right where we wait in watch for them.



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