When I buy a second hand
seersucker suit jacket,
with a patch embroidered
Peek & Cloppenburg
Unser Name Ist Qualität
in German on the inside
pocket, I don't search for
communist business cards
or matchbook signatures
from East Berlin hookers,
I flip up the lapels and smell.
Where the cloth is whiter still
I inhale night rain through lindens:
a man on a purple bicycle rides
shoeless through July thunder
with a passport full of bad habits
and three tickets to the theatre,
making the most of his skeleton,
he cruises like an angular cloud
up the wrong side of the street,
singing to the fountain statues,
indelicate and hungry for luck.
Biggest devastation since Sumatra.
Chernobyl the only precursor.
Village of burning driftwood buildings.
Parked helicopters pile up. The island
airport control tower a lighthouse.
Graphite rods exposed to air ignite.
400 kilometers of earth shifted.
Submarine fault line epicenter.
Escalating wall of ocean
swallowed roads and people.
The U.S. flies in coolant fluid. Diplomatic
relationship unshakeable. Human
body can absorb a tiny amount
of radiation. Walking ghosts. Black rain.
—after the Boston Marathon
Mudflats bubble to horizon,
leaching gold from dawn
over milk-blue ocean.
In a town called Water,
the cops caught some kid
who sheered the legs of
and huddled in a backyard
motorboat to die.
Hyacinths plump as
urchins. Saquish lighthouse
concedes to the sun,
a scratched cornea
too tender for air.
Violence tints this harbor view.
In an elegiac century,
we have run aground somewhere
our language is no use.
In days of depth charts,
sea monsters crouched, uncertain
shadows at the corners of maps.
We struggle in parchment surf;
tangled black ropes of latitude,
no North star to navigate.
Shall we return to salt?
Or manage the mystery
with a simple truth:
Tide rises like a shark
We are eaten, or swim.
Copyright Stephan Delbos 2015
Stephan Delbos grew up in Plymouth, MA, and lives in Prague, where he edits the web journal B O D Y. His poetry, essays, and translations have been published most recently in Asymptote, Fourteen Hills, The Brooklyn Quarterly, New Linear Perspectives, and Zoland Poetry. Previously, he edited the anthology From a Terrace in Prague: A Prague Poetry Anthology (Litteraria Pragensia, 2011). His collection of visual, music-inspired poems, Bagatelles for Typewriter, was exhibited at Prague's ArtSpace Gallery in 2012. His first full-length play, Chetty's Lullaby, about the life of trumpet legend Chet Baker, was produced in San Francisco in 2013. He is currently translating the collection The Absolute Gravedigger, by Czech poet Vítězslav Nezval, which is scheduled for publication by Twisted Spoon Press in 2016.