Trent Walters – Four Poems



A flint-headed arrow
pierces the deck of layered
pasteboard to scratch the finish
of the stoic queen of hearts–

the high priestess and trump whose face
I cannot read, a face that betrays no tells,
no emotions except for the occasional
tip of her cards. She wants me–

whether hanged man or just a fool–
to ask though I cannot, for my lips
are but straight painted lines
parted by sharp stone.


Bruised Fruit Gathered after a Wind-fall

This hand holds the enlarged
heart. It beats, shrivels, slows
to the fall of leaves. Cold-
locked fingers won’t let go.


Your Pad or Mine

You can’t swim. I can.
But on paper, we paddle
far from the edges, splash toward

the cool white emptiness, and look
like we’re both drowning
in this summer blizzard.

Excerpts from a Smokin’ Boys-Room Poetics

8:30 at night in the bar,
not the kind with meat-
market travellers. It sports
poetry readings, scrawls

funky graffiti: “A lesson learned
is a time for BBQ.” “Not all Jazz
is Lit. Some of you
sound like the Weather

Report–not the sweet
fusion band of 70s and 80s.”
Poetry can jazz June.
It sometimes sings a sinful

body-electric tune, sometimes spins
mysterious tales, and sometimes
rains black tears of tedium. Heavy,
bathroom-graffiti writer. Forecast:
Time for BBQ.


Author’s Statement on Beauty: Every Atom of Our Blood

What is beauty in poetry? Most dictionaries pin down “beauty” as appealing to the mind and senses, especially the visual (interestingly, proverbs about beauty urge us to see beyond it).

Donald Hall, Dorianne Laux, and innumerable others have penned books concerning such poetic appeal—introductions to the field, essays, ars poeticas, etc. This, therefore, must be the poet’s own idiosyncratic view (although I may recant tomorrow):

Beauty in poetry is a fractally layered cake, frosted in human paradox.

A fractal is an infinitely repeating pattern that, no matter how deep you zoom in or how far you pull away, the same pattern recurs. [See this gif:] Poetry places limits on the fractal metaphor, so you can only zoom down to, say, the word or sounds where they interplay at the sensory and sense levels, where they contradict and confirm. Pulling back to the lines, you witness the interplay within and between. Back out further, and the holistic poem emerges on the page. Pan out to the book, and the poems engage, enhance and debate their neighbors. Within a writer’s career, books rub against books. Poets engage poets within their era, and eras debate eras.

Readers may not grasp the complete fractal in one poem but might if they step back. For instance, three of these poems form part of a collaborative series—the tenor and shape of the collection is embedded within like holographic fragments although readers will need more poems to glimpse the whole. I’ll leave larger scales to academics.

Paradox is not a requisite but adds verisimilitude when poems deal with people. Seating one’s self as judge from a confessional or political throne, the poet’s single perspective distorts. Should poets choose to eliminate distortion and feedback, they must “step out of the frame to see the picture” (as Salman Rushdie put it).

Finally, art asks one question from an infinite number of angles with infinite lenses: “What does it mean to be human?”

I anticipate objections: “But what about…?”

Thomas Lux reduced poetry to treatments of love or death. While mine appears reductive, it may actually be inclusive. “What about meaningless poems?” Isn’t that a common human battle? “What about language poetry?” Isn’t that what humans use to communicate?

The problem for poetry comes when we abstract ourselves farther and farther away from the central question. It doesn’t have to be philosophically earth-shaking but reflect a moment like William Carlos Williams’s “red wheel / barrow / glazed with rain.”

Walt Whitman encapsulates this perspective, to an extent, in “Song of Myself”:

“For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you….

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air….

Creeds and schools in abeyance….

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.”


Trent Walters’ chapbook, Learning the Ropes, was published by Morpo Press. Other works  have appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Minnesota River Review, Nebo, The Pedestal, and elsewhere.