Ace Boggess of Charleston, West Virginia, is the author of five books of poetry, including Misadventure, I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled. His writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison.
“Why Do You Lose Your Zest for Life?”
I’m a failure; I’m a small-g god in each mini-universe I make.
Fights break out between notions: brawls with broken bottles,
shivs. Neither wins. To keep the battle going demands stamina
my useful muscle can’t maintain. In rehab, therapists
called it egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Sure,
but what about exhaustion? None of the faith-healers
talk about that, preaching doorknobs, higher powers.
I wish I could rest in tender arms of my drug. It doesn’t love me,
fluffs a pillow on a mattress filled with springs.
How often I think of leaving the war & laying down my arms,
but the cannons are lovely—I prefer to tell their story.
“How Can You Say That You Are Not Responsible?”
I didn’t; I confessed. Eight pages. Sign here, initial this.
I said I did it, bent to the whim of the lash,
singed the convict’s brand on my shins.
Do you still expect me to deny it?
When I’ve milked the consequences, drank?
How often must I apologize?
I’ve paid for my freedom from regret.
It’s like you want me to relive it, litigate it,
baptized in chilly waters of guilt. I won’t.
You can stretch the rack as often as you like,
only torch a heretic the once.
“Have You Already Purchased a Cemetery Plot?”
—funeral home questionnaire
My father told me decades back
he kept one—when he moved to Florida,
he sold my death rest out from under me,
draped the parcel around a stranger’s shoulders.
I remember the site, seeing it once
amidst smells of mud & grass like sickness.
I didn’t want to be there—
brushed along rocky, crooked edges of slope,
surrounded by family I never could relate to.
All of us end up somewhere, &
a thousand years from now,
our atoms will belong to someone else,
spread among all the someone elses
of the world, if the world exists &
we haven’t cursed ourselves to live forever.