Stephan Delbos, the Poet Laureate of Plymouth, MA., is the author of In Memory of Fire (Cape Cod Poetry Review, 2016); Light Reading (BlazeVOX, 2019); and Small Talk (Dos Madres, 2021). His play Deaf Empire, about composer Bedřich Smetana, was produced by Prague Shakespeare Company in 2017. His co-translation of The Absolute Gravedigger, by Czech poet Vítězslav Nezval, was awarded the PEN/Heim Translation Grant in 2015 and was published by Twisted Spoon Press. Paris Notebook, translations from Czech poet Tereza Riedlbauchová, is forthcoming from Verse Chorus Press. He is a Founding Editor of B O D Y (www.bodyliterature.com).
Poem for Aliases
I had a kid affinity for dog tags.
GI Joe offered honorary real
American hero status for ten dollars.
Engraved Max Thunder when they came
by mail. I lived childhood embarrassed
of my name and daily wore an alias.
One morning I stood across Allerton
Street from Patrick, my first best friend,
lobbing the tags over telephone wires
to his open hands. The ball chain caught
someone’s conversation, spun tight and stopped,
knotted. What to do but walk home
without the wrong name on my neck?
Poem for Child Soldiers
Winters thaw longing for the limitless
afternoons of August I deployed
to play Army on a front lawn battlefield;
razor wire picket fence, the neighbors
terrorists, shrill rattle of tongue against
teeth: reports from the universal boyhood
uzi echoing tonight in the splutter
of a cocktail lounge men’s bathroom
hand dryer. I remember and point
a loaded mock Mac 10 at the mirror,
cashmere sweater camouflage, but now
my manmade gunshots don’t kid anyone.
Red Sky at Morning
Barges dredge Plymouth harbor.
Gape of my father’s mouth
ICU I lean into his crusted
lips to catch a few knotted
words in the bucket of my ear.
Crane jaws gorge on dripping blobs
of silt and seawater, mud and stone
torn from the bottom they must deepen.
We are swimming over a pit’s edge
empty grave holes underwater
cemetery of the sea, dark
splotches on his brain scan blood
bursts the hulls of its vessels.
floats inside his diving bell
body, depressurized eyes,
distant radar pulses fading down
a sunken canyon.
Loitering on the Point
Waiting on the past
-dark beach. Buoyed light,
channel markers’ glare,
final cries of gulls
drown, dunes sunk
out here to speak of, why
do we insist we stay?
I pocket a hand
full of night-washed sand;
summer’s symbol I declare.
No one wants this season
over. August always
ceases. We go on.
Poem for Fidelities
Asking all the old questions, we stood
an hour under a streetlamp’s bell jar;
every bar too swollen with laughter
to talk. In earnest, as if we could
touch truth, we kicked toes and shook hands
for this is what we do. Stubborn as footstools.
That was a simile. Michael my friend
and I were stoned, discussing the schools
of thought on fidelity, captured
comet of a lit joint slipping like belief
between us. I mumbled how I’d
known one love. Into the darkness scared
I pushed her. Michael said we swim in space.
Float helpless. I described her face.