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spacer.gif   Tom Roby
Posted by : cj on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 11:28 AM
Poetry:  Click On The Author's Name .
(Some of the work on this page contains explicit language.)

Walking the Walk

Sidewalk Sawyer cut a hundred thousand
cross-lines on designer pavements
and never lost a line.
His broad frame, long arms, and outsized grip
ran the power blade as if it were a handsaw.
The name fit the sideways hitch in his gait
shaped by the attentive steps
he took to the left of his pushcart saw,
each foot set heel to toe as he leaned on the handle
with exacting pressure to engrave the groove.

His tracks were not those of the slacker crews
in knee high rubber boots who loved
to slop around in the concrete like kids
as they shoveled to fill the forming pen.
They were minions of the process,
lurching home from the bar after work,
dreaming the mixer truck’s incessant sluice,
while Sidewalk lay on his insomniac couch
and gazed at Euclid’s ideal line, the perfect groove.

Every day he generated so much dust
that he looked like a walking slab of sidewalk.
For fifty years he disdained face masks as a distraction,
claiming that he washed it all out after work
with a pitcher of beer. But in time the dust
set off a cough, and after Sidewalk’s cough
had blown all the foam off their beer,
they were glad to have their boots on.

Left to himself, he filled the back booth with elaborate layouts,
parading lines vertical and lines horizontal,
diagonal lines (too risky for the bosses), and bright blocks
in red, blue, and yellow (too loud and pricey).
When shown a Mondrian print, he said,
“Give me his phone number, I’ll get him a job.”

The cough got worse. His drinking buddies took bets
that he wouldn’t last the week. But behind the saw
Sidewalk never even cleared his throat until
halfway through an uneven surface
on a Gold Coast curb he was tripped by a sneeze.
The blade jumped its groove, took a random bite at the block,
and sliced across his foot, cutting off the toes.
He switched off, pressure-taped the shoe,
and drove his dusty pickup deep
into the city junkyard where the guard dogs
found his bloodless corpse three days later,
and the coroner had to pry from his grip
the clipboard with a perfect freehand drawing
of the lines on the completed sidewalk.

The Sky Skiing Buddha

in his cloak of clouds
hangs with the wind gods
that tow him through the ocean air,
so everybody feels his wake
when he jumps those mountain peaks,
but only a few make out his smile
or heed how he looks
behind his dark specs
when he sets off
the pinwheel sparklers
of the galaxies
and showers Aha’s
on the flowering buds.


was everybody
who ever
at me

as a moonlit laugh
whose invite
every night

as cool air
will bell
out of a
clear well

as fall’s burnt amber
that you see
its last

is everybody
who will ever
at me

Short Attention Span Poems


larks on the fax lines
seventeen little egos
who puff up my poem

Means of Production

Poems scribbled
on the backs
of expired options

On the 12th Day of Xmas

The sanitation
Santa Claus
slings his sack
onto a garbage truck


The moon’s
the belly button
of the night.


The First Time

for me was when we talked more than
we fucked because the talk seemed
to bring us closer together, while the act,
for me at least, seemed to be happening
to somebody else since I had no idea
I’d come so soon when it was always
taking me so long to jack off, but that’s
what the excitement of the real thing
will do for you, so what was left but talk
or leave, and she was a good talker
with opinions she could defend like
Muddy Waters against Sir George Solti,
so I was learning something about the blues
even as I was blue with no screaming
squirming orgasms like everybody,
at least braggart lovers at the open mike,
said she should do, yet she didn’t bother
to order that up for me,
preferring to be honest about it and also
about not liking my classical music,
which was a first for me since in high school
all the girls I knew were prissy types
who preferred to keep a small cello
between their legs, so she played me
some Muddy, and the way she talked about it,
he actually made sense, especially when I saw
the harmonic guy on the record jacket—
a white boy wind player like me—blowing
any mouth organ that came to hand,
making me figure that we could hit
that electric high blue note
together, but she laughed
and kissed me goodbye, sent me out
to buy my own harmonica and a Muddy record
so I found out how hard it was and how glad I was
that the first time was not the last time.

Note: Here are some never before seen poems by Chicago poet Tom Roby.

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