Chuck Joy at the Literary Cafe – photo by Chandra Alderman

Nine Ways


this turbulent mystery

life, unfolds like a metal flower

I’ll tell you what

living in the present means

sucking every drop of celebrity

from simply pulling words together

or even working by the hour


even sleeping, my sister

making the best of this hand we’ve been dealt

moving the cards around

staring out over their tops

at the dealer, at the handsome stranger across the table

I love it here in Las Vegas


a lonely man

probably grew up in foster care or

never met the right girl

sent himself a greeting card

it read, remember

when you think something positive

something you admire or

it feels good

always say the words out loud


words, the molecular basis

of language as chemistry

at least in English

how do you describe

the bow-wave curving from the prow

of your particular Wolverine

in Urdu or Swahili?


love is a word, also

an experience, so is sex

sometimes I have to bury my heart

and my penis so deep into the present moment

only my eyes are left

but it feels good


hate is another word, red lights

flashing at the scene of an accident

blood splashed on wet pavement

a slender body oddly sprawled

halfway on the sidewalk

somebody’s daughter, her future

over, the driver nowhere

and everywhere, drunk as a lord

laughing at the misfortune of others


a daughter is the apple of her father’s eye

Dean Martin said that, I think

in fact Dean Martin crooned that line

to a silver microphone

in the backroom at Patsy’s Paradise Club

all low ceilings and red tablecloths

on Bloomfield Road, where the Sinatras

were celebrating Nancy’s christening


cousins and lovers were busy

all over the city, reading

the newspaper at Starbucks

delivering pizza

to the Lutheran Hospital, performing

antique drama, dreaming perfect

behind-the-back lay-ups


all of us, mutts

and blokes, each at the center

of our perceptions, exploring

the full range of human emotions

sometimes lost between the intentions

of others and our projections

but with the effort that is no effort

mostly found 

* * * * *

Chuck Joy
authored All Smooth (Destitute Press) and Key West Quartet (Edinboro Book Art Collective).  He has read at every Snoetry, the Confluence, two International Festivals, The Erie Book Store, Poets’ Hall, Mac’s Backs, Mahall’s 20 Lanes and Woodlawn Diner.