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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Featuring Norman J. Olson

the last horse and the tractor

the old John Deere tractor
was bought just after the war…  I can
barely remember the last of the horses,
huge and stomping around,
led by harness reins…
these were not race horses or
riding horses, delicate as the frost, but
workhorses with hooves the size of
dinner plates…  and shaggy coats…
I can see my dad
with the horse hoof held between
his legs, nails in his mouth,
nailing horseshoes
to the hooves of
a big slow black workhorse…

the last horse was named Black Beauty and I remember his

the horse was ill and was standing,
leaning against the chicken coop…
I could hear the cracking
And groaning of the wood…
it was blue black night and
the enormous old horse
screaming in a harrowing whinny,
almost like a person…  the
adults were afraid he was
going to knock the
chicken coop over…  I remember
my dad at the old wooden
phone that hung on the kitchen wall, cranking
up the phone, holding
the ear piece…
cousin Erik
to come with his rifle
and I remember the
crack of the shot…  then
the last of the horses
was gone…  gone like childhood
or like yesterday morning, gone
like the sound
of an old John Deere tractor
over the hills of my memory, gone
like a rifle shot
in the blue black night…

my civil service job

like the taste of a mint
melting on my tongue, the day
drifts away. one phone call
from a man who lost his
job and wants his final
check. his employer
is broke,
I hear this twenty times a day.
the next call from a
woman who
is obviously
insane, looking for another
lost soul to draw into
her web.  blah blah blah, hang up.

between the calls my fingers click clacking keys
I type virtual words into
an electronic nowhere
I trust to hold
them. answer the phone, hear
another story of a person’s life
being destroyed by
a swamp
that eats
the working poor. desperate voices
come through the phone
looking for help that does not exist,
looking for fairness in
an unfair universe, and
existing only as bits
of an electric potential in some
computer somewhere in between
silence and
the still uncounted stars.

poem for pia

other people’s poems keep
running through my
like rusty freight trains
across the Minnesota prairie. other
people’s knees
are bending
to touch the floor of someone
else’s chapel, to pray to someone
else’s god. other people
see and touch
you, lick your lips
and kiss your toes. other people’s
fingers - - perhaps they are your
fingers - - hold brushes
beautiful things with bristles
plucked from a pig’s asshole.
somewhere there is art, beauty,
youth, women who bleed and men
who jerk off…
a place where they all smoke cigarettes
and get drunk
and make love
like horned mammals… but not here
here, the smokers are dying of emphysema
and syncope, falling to the floor,
their damaged brains
their hands
and the drinkers are old and sick with ruined
livers and bad breath… the lovers are
the worst of all, a horror of wrinkled skin,
and lubricated death
no wonder I listen to other people’s songs

The Mental Cases

The mental cases
and brain
citizens sit
in the food
Somebody is taking care
of them, at least for now.
They talk to themselves and
to the table and one
gesticulates wildly while another
says softly to people
“whodayou think YOU are?”
I don’t
have an answer
for him.
A woman about the shape of a giant
watermelon eats half a sandwich
She ignores
the mental cases
but she is looking

The above poems are from Olson's collection Forty-Four Image Poems (mgv2 publishing, 2016):

BIO: Norman J. Olson, born 1948, is a small press poet and artist who lives in Maplewood, Minnesota USA.  Since publishing his first poem in 1984 after many years of regular submission and rejection, he has published hundreds of poems and artworks in the literary press in 15 countries and all over the USA.

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