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Selected Poets
Books/Chapbooks 2


Joshua Michael Stewart is originally from Sandusky, Ohio but has been living in Massachusetts since 1988. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His poems have been published in Rattle, Diner, HazMat Review, Worcester Review, and others. His first chapbook, Ordinary Mysteries,  was published by White Heron Press in 2004. Here are some samples from that chapbook:

Like God you create mountains without much effort.
Tracing the arete with your godly finger
you envision your journey through the terrain, taste
the chalk and granite dusting your teeth.
Even the bighorn you’d toss the crust of your sandwich
is perched on that third line in the second stanza.
Then there’s fire. One can’t label himself Almighty,
unless he’s willing to burn something: a small forest of pines,
leaving only thin, charred trunks to spear the white sky?
But of course what is a god without a congregation?
So there’s the poppy field where Eve and Adam
first realized that sinning wasn’t such a horrible thing.
Which leads to the embrace, the interwoven bond
between joy and sorrow, something only mortals
understand. And there you are, your complete human self,
standing alone, squinting out at sea, the black sails of Theseus
in the amber light of the desk lamp.

for Scott Graves
You’re thinking of the year I spent with a gun in my mouth, how the snow that winter was unmanageable. The drifts were as high as the windows, and you kept mentioning how it was like peering out of a porthole. You wondered if the ship next door was coincidentally passing, or if we belonged to a fleet of pathological dreamers. It occurred to you that it could be just a house...sinking in quicksand. You felt the floor melting beneath you, the creaking of support beams, a china plate smashing in the next room. It wasn’t until morning, the windows still in their frames, that you were willing to accept the snow as frozen water, a nuisance, that the gun I was gnawing was a candy cane, and the bullets did little more than turn my tongue a brighter red. 

"No human thing is of serious importance." --Plato
     I'm an airline attendant for a small company that can’t afford anything except rickety biplanes. Needless to say, my job causes very little stress which is the kind of stress I find suitable. I ask the pilot if he has his seatbelt properly fastened, if he’s in the upright position, then toss a can of Coke and a snack-size bag of Ruffles into his lap. I ask how long it should take. “About an hour,” he replies. Then I say to him: “we should be arriving at our planned destination in approximately one hour.”
     I spend the rest of the flight glaring over the edge of the aircraft wondering what would happen to the houses below if I dropped pennies out of the plane. Then I start to imagine baseballs, bowling balls, Ford Explorers. People would step out to fetch the morning paper to see a refrigerator pulverize their yuppy neighbor’s brand new Volvo. They’d look up into the sky, using the newspaper as a visor. I’d see their resplendent smiles and their thin arms waving like the tails of sperm cells under microscopes, and I’d know that I was contributing to something really special.

Summer. We were walking
a country road before dawn,
and you were dead.
I don’t remember your dying,
but there you were, dragging your feet,
your eyes like the bottoms of glass ashtrays.
Your breath.
I said it smelled of death,
and you just groaned.
I felt like an idiot.
I never wanted this.
I never wanted it to rain.
Do you have any idea
what a soggy corpse is like        
so early in the morning?
I tried to pick up the pace,
but all you could do was slosh across the road.
Eventually we came to a barn,
and hobbled inside to get dry.
Soon the sun was up. The rain had stopped,
and the insects were getting jiggy in the fields.
You slumped into an empty stall.
Sunlight beamed through slits in the boards
and the dust of your body mingled
with the dust of the barn, the outside world
and possibly me. Despite the decay
you looked lovely disappearing like that.
And I told you, if I wasn’t such a fool
I’d love you right down to the bone.
“Vultures usually do.”
It was the first thing you'd said all morning.

Ordinary Mysteries