Rick Bursky

These Were Our Best Years

We slept better after we invented violence,
some of us resumed the habit
of muffling cries with newly plumped pillows.
We sang the same songs at funerals and birthdays;
served the same cake with sugary frosting, too,
occasions were sweetened this way.
We sucked smoke signals with deep breaths
and left the language to our lungs.
Then one night we opened the windows and doors.
Stray dogs wrapped in dark clouds wandered in.
What we couldn’t see we could smell.


The Taming

I was a lion tamer for a zoo.
I studied to work in the circus but you know
what happened to that industry.
The preferred term today is trainer.
Some cultures say you train
water to boil, train your shoelaces to tie.
Cleveland, 1977, a 350 pound Siberian tiger
climbed its fence, killed a man photographing a child.
The Canchola Law, 1978, all cat breeds reaching
one hundred pounds at maturity receive
eight hours of training before exhibition.
Women find me unattractive until I tell them my profession.
The zoo lobby prefers the Canchola Law remain secret.
A 350 pound Siberian tiger is a kitten.
The first step in training a lion, become one.
To appear larger I wear shoes with three inch heels.
My first wife was a professional dominatrix,
nothing but coincidence. The truth is
lions and tigers in exotic shows are born in captivity.
The same might be said for dominatrices.
I know what you’re thinking,
our sexual activities, but you’re wrong.
All the anger in the world evaporates
biting down on a whip.

Rick Bursky most recent book, I’m No Longer Troubled By The Extravagance, is out from BOA Editions. His previous full-length collections are Death Obscura, Sarabande Books, and The Soup of Something Missing, Bear Star Press. His poems have appeared in my journals including Field, American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Conduit and Iowa Review; and he teaches poetry for UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. His favorite sweet is marshmallow peeps.

 … return to Issue 8.3 Table of Contents.