Monday, March 14, 2011

Cornelius Fortune - Two Poems

Tiny Hearts in the Margins

Love letters wrought with wit,
tiny hearts in the margins,
descending into a stream of codes
between yellow and white lines

The letter, water-stained,
written in a faint pencil
(faint from age)
carefully folded into squares,

it transported him back to those
wireless days circa 1993,
senior year, the future,
an unformed road with an
interstate of possibilities

before he broke her heart
in slow motion rewind,
incrementally reducing
his calls to few, then to zero;

He liked her the way
an eighteen-year-old boy
likes a lot and calls it sort of love,
so quick he was to remove
her from his present and future;
shift her, and her elaborate
letters to the past

Then an upset in chronology…

He couldn’t pinpoint where it changed,
only that there was another, and this other girl
existed in no medium he could carbon date,
or trace – no letters, no trinkets,
merely a vague impression that hung over him:
sensory output and reception, recalled emotion

He was aware that they touched lips
and hands (often simultaneously),
in a desperate dance of tongues,
curfews, midnight movies, and as the
cliché went, parked cars

digital files grow corrupted,

those aging letters, instead, lost
definition each year it marked
its own anniversary, a fixed
temporal point

Time machines were built daily out of
teenage angst

His own children would never really
know the thrill of opening a perfumed
letter, or a letter violated by a tennis shoe,
tread-marked between classes,
courtesy of an angry or disappointed boy
or girl, who didn’t get the response they

Sometimes, he pulled out the letters,
which were kept in a tin can he’d won
at the local state fair
(spraying water straight into
the clown’s mouth, as the miniature
motor car ascended to victory)

and his mind, briefly, turns to an alternate universe they
could have created together,

To see those tiny hearts in the margins
always brought a smile to his face,
and made him wonder if ever she
remembered writing them, or like the
graphite, had those memories
faded, descending into a complex
stream of codes between yellow
and white lines?


dirty thoughts arranged in columns
rising and falling,
one for calculation,
the other for probability,
a third for chaos

they were all wrong and incalculable:
nothing yielded to him,
it avoided his penetration,
so he cocked his head,
fingering the hole in his
pocket, where lodged a penny
he had forgot to spend

getting back instead, a handful of
change that littered the
Formica tabletop with
its towers of leaning magazines
and movie tie-in cups, the
lids hiding somewhere in the
cupboard collecting dust

dirty magazines with clean surfaces –
a few coffee rings decorating the
edges, curling the pages

he counted the word “orgasm”
152 times in Playboy
and shuddered as the goose bumps
flecked his skin, reminding him
to remove his coat from the hook
because the weatherman said
the sky “would be muddy”

dirty thoughts squeezed themselves
past the censors, who reminded him
that a MPA rating was better than
no rating at all

he considered his last intimate encounter
and found that it was neither positive
nor negative

(it simply didn’t register)

dirty windows stained with guano graffiti
colored splashes of yesterday’s
feast, rearview mirror canvas
reminding him of the car wash
he avoided because it was a
rainy season, which tended to wash
the grime away (but not from his
rear window)

dirty thoughts needed washing,
needed tending
if they were to ever
get properly filthy again
how then to judge filth but by the
very contrast of cleanliness?

the naughty parts of the world concealed
its favors from him, so he turned the
radio up, droning out the images in
his head

he washed away the columns of dirt
accumulated under his fingernails
with hand sanitizer and the top of a
ballpoint pen

the list needed work
it always needed work
he made endless lists
of all his disordered mental clutter

taking his dirty thoughts by the hand,
he crumpled them into a ball and tossed
it into a pile on the passenger’s side

in the end, with a clean sheet of paper,
empty columns free of marks,
he would start all over the next morning

A native Detroiter, Cornelius Fortune's work has appeared in Metro Times, the Advocate,Chess Life, Yahoo News, Tales of the Unanticipated, Illumen and
others. Visit his website at

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