:: Article

Four Poems

By David E. Oprava.

with blackened lungs

I wanted to know what made the spare room tick, its dark shades and tousled bed, the cedar drawer scattered with coins, earrings, and a book of sulfur smells. I took them all back to my cave and piled Bert and Ernie on the duvet. I didn’t know how to use one or what it did so I fumbled with the nuance, flipped and slid and scratched until finally the last one lit.
Out of surprise I threw it in the middle of a polyester love affair and flash, bang, I was nowhere.

Downstairs mom was hoovering and I yelled, Ernie’s burning, Ernie’s fucking burning! She didn’t hear, too busy sucking up lint while whole continents of bedding went up.
I hotly whispered “fire” and she ran. From tub to room to tap to bed until the flames were drunk: stumbling through their last licks
and the house smelled like a chemical barbecue. Dripping black, Bert was limp, melted into Ernie. Mom sat down in her favorite chair, lit a match, and quietly smoked her cigarette.


and imagined days

There were smoked hams
in the attic:
half pigs half naked.
A mannequin missing arms
played her 45’s
on a record player
that no longer existed.
Piles of magazines
made rat holes for mice
and their scat lay scattered-
bones thrown in a game
I’d interrupted.

I tiptoed through the icebergs
of glacial dust and found
the misplaced thoughts:
not my own, someone else’s.
Perhaps somewhere
on the other side of space
there in an attic
full of childhood
is an imagination
creeping through it:
surprised by the collected junk
that once seemed so important-
enough to be saved for maybe.


soul machine

People stretch in line down the hall,
past my door, up the steps and into the horizon.
As if they have none to spare, no one says a word.

Counting coins in copper hands,
their eyes broken forward, they think
back and feel a nation, a world, a galaxy waiting.

One morning I decide to cut-in-line between
two folks dead before their chance- I pump my coins.
It asks for more. I throw in clothes, car keys, furniture.

Still it asks for more. I shove in memories, sunshine,
cold nights, Christmas and New Years, the skin
off my bones and the remnants of every waking moment.
There’s nothing left.

A light comes on and the canned voice says,
“you’re welcome.”


of hallowed wood

the beavers made their home, their dam, sunk in land that used to be a forest. They didn’t get every tree, some too strong or hard-boned remained, curious totems out in the water. It was only knee deep most of it, but in winter it froze two-foot-thick, enough to drive the tractor on.

The clanging rust and red blower cleared a field of ice, black ice, the most magical kind: frozen just right. Smooth as skin and thick as gold, a skating ice that went around the deadened slalom.

It was this swamp that had swallowed a team of horses, a coach, a carriage, everything, somewhere, down there. Putting on my skates, I knew what hundred-year-old bones looked like- they were seeds that grew dead trees, not really bones at all.


David E. Oprava is an American-born writer and publisher living and working in the UK. His poetry collections include VS. (Erbacces Press 2008), American Means (American Mettle Books 2009) and his latest Sole, which has recently been released by Blackheath Books. He is also the founding publisher and editor of the small poetry and prose press Grevious Jones. He lives in the UK with his wife and two small children.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, October 13th, 2010.