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Two poems by Ace Boggess

If You’re Reading This, Accept My Apologies

I’ve been abusive to my body:

pills & cocaine, vodka, cigarettes,

sodas, fatty foods, knife fights,

concussions caused by heavier fists than mine,

a deputy’s shiny boot. Sure,

I’m calmer, anxieties neatly tucked into a flannel pocket

above my heart; a part of me is dying—more than one.

I won’t be around to write your elegy;

I will—although unwillingly—go first,

leaving no one to lie at your funeral,

say your life was full of luminescence.

There were moments of smiling

against your will when alien happiness

carried you off. You were the most

majestic tiger in the circus:

proud & melancholy, fierce but tame

or biding your time to lunge.

You lived between lethargy &

desire for greatness like a bored queen.

I wish I could be there

to bow before you one last time.

I’ll be elsewhere, otherwise,

finally getting a good night’s sleep

& dreaming of nothing

which burns a light of its own.

“How Difficult Was Prison?”

[question asked by Joel Fry]

Like a fist checking the back of my skull.

Or, not like. Such as. Is.

There was turtling, protecting the vital.

Shouting happened often; quiet menaced more.

What could I say about card games &

their promised violence? Oh,

I handled time better after my wife left me.

I welcomed routine—normal life,

like working nine to five on the factory floor

or driving a cab without machinery or roads.

Easier, looking back, than I thought

while in the middle of it. Better for me

than some who left on gurneys never to return

to this or any world they might have known.

Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, including Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021), I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, and The Prisoners. His writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble.

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