Amy Gerstler
Cul de Sac

Here the things of the past

come to an end.

Useless longings

that give off such a whiff

of brimstone, from which

arms of flame once shot

hundreds of feet into the air,

alarming the populace

and laying waste to acres

of charming native vegetation...

well, let's just say these yearnings

have shriveled considerably.

While still kindled

in my, they're now composed

solely of secondhand light

not unlike the moon's:


damning as faint praise,

insipid as dishwater.

I have even less to offer 

than I did years ago,

when you disappeared.

My paltry effects include

a series of sacred earaches,

a styrofoam life preserver

lifted from an ocean liner,

a photo of King Kong

in a dress suit, and tales

from a wedding night

spent rolling around

in a famous confederate 

battlefield's scratchy

blood-fed weeds.

Erosion rakes the face

of a distant stone cliff

where an ancient master race

carved a vertical city.

They worshipped bearded

river gods hidden under

cattails and algae in deep

ravines miles below. Nature's

radiance flares and pales.

I have no intention of being

direct. Fearing the worst

I send you this missive—

an ill-tempered penance,

on stationery edged with motifs

of huge saw-toothed glaciers

and crunchy little runner beans.

The letterhead pictures

all I've tickled or sipped

since we parted. O landlord

of my heart, must love always

end with a thud? Won't you

appear in one of the gaping

holes in this prose—

stick your head out of a crater

in this minefield of writing,

so I can grab a handful

of your hair

and sink my teeth

through your ear like

some fleshy hors d'oeuvre?

Found In Volume 25, No. 06
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Amy Gerstler
About the Author

Amy Gerstler won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Bitter Angel (1990). Her early work, including White Marriage/Recovery (1984), was highly praised. Gerstler's more recent works include Nerve Storm (1993), Medicine (2000), Ghost Girl (2004), and Dearest Creature (2009), which the New York Times named a Notable Book of the Year.