One Evening at the Madison Square Garden
(Evelyn Nesbit)

Harry shot Stanford in the head
and ruined a table cloth,
driven mad with jealousy by Evelyn—
already a hackneyed human outcome in 1906,
though it sold tabloids then and would now.

Architect White got busy deconstructing,
slow work but inexorable;
Thaw checked into an asylum,
his straw boater screwed on too tight.
And Miss Nesbit descended
the ladder of notoriety rung by rung,
dying unknown in an old folk’s home.

Beauty that made  time stand still
couldn’t stop the clock…

But how much does that matter
if even a thick woman in a trailer park,
sallow and missing a few teeth,
could drive two shirtless drunks on Cops
into such frenzy
that they sliced each other up with kitchen knives?
And both already had scars.




When We Were Still In Kansas
(Née Minnie Braun)

My stern, zaftig German-American grandmother
had a wild side.  A wayward bent.
She wore low-heeled black shoes
laced tighter than clenched teeth
and a flour sack house dress with a homemade
lace doily for a collar.
Her hair tried to hide on her head.

In her parlor, unused and dark,
cross-stitched Bible verse samplers
dignified the walls.
But life itself was lived in the kitchen
with a party line crank phone
and grease sizzling in the skillet:
the sound of terror in the chicken coop.

She wrung necks with a crushing grip
and a bit too much pleasure;
drove her ’48 Chevy into Harveyville
on the wrong side of the gravel road,
convinced it was safer, somehow,
and so fast you’d think that teetotaler
had moonshine in her trunk.





The Man Next Door
(Louis Simpson)

Oedipus is your next door neighbor,
that bent old-timer with a red-tipped white stick
who feels his way to the corner and back
every morning, chewing without teeth
on more suffering than you can imagine.

You stand at the living room window and watch,
compassionate within reason, careful
not to think
about how hard your own mother died,
whom you were never close to,
or what happened to your daughter
who ran off with someone she met online.

Late at night, alone, you stay up
to sip one more glass of dry red wine,
turning the pages of a book of poems
in which nothing much happens
as if they were written about your street.





[Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks.  For more info and links to publishers, visit his website at]


Copyright © 2018 by Don Thompson, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.