Joan Colby, three poems

October 31, 2017




Crouched in the paddies with the wounded

Waiting hushed until  the hum

Like a loud dragonfly, the rotors whirring.

Bird they whispered. Birdbirdistheword.


Named that colt for those lofty

Memories of rescue. A certain promise.

He could fly. Won the million dollar

Delta Jackpot as a two-year-old. A Derby

Contender, maybe. Then he was wounded.


The way good ones too often are. Went on

To win a few. Retired to stud.

Lucky as the ones who made it home

With gimpy legs or confusions.


Died in a barn fire one year later.

So much for luck. So much

For that guy on the riverbank

Mind whirling like the rotors lifting up.






First there are flamingos,

real ones shading in every syllable of pink

unlike the lawn fakes solidly fuchsia,

Sluttish as five inch heels. The real flamingos

pose one-legged in salt water. Their necks are snakes.

They are less beautiful, than strange.

As in dreams where everything is almost

audible, almost exact, then tones change

to angelus bells, colors become strident.

These people are dead, that’s how I know

it’s still a dream. I haven’t wakened in relief.

The flamingos take off filling the sky with wings.

My father’s face in the marketplace, then gone.

Everything fades as an old Polaroid,

a failed technique. I worry too much,

about too many things. Unresolved as tumors,

pink, hot pink, tropical.

Such matters must be dealt with,

must be simplified. The lagoon

where the flamingos sleep is warm.

The temperature of the body is less

than that of birds though still fevered

with dreams of ambition. Unless the body

is dead. I am being prepared for the operation.

Two men in white. A saw. A drill.




Born in 1899 , the old-maid sister
Lived at home to care for the elders,
Answered the phone in the state’s attorney’s office,
Wore flowered dresses, high heels, a corset
To contain the wayward flesh. 
Hair curled every Friday at the beauty parlor.
Bright lipstick, two round spots of rouge
Like dry kisses. She loved Elvis Presley
And not the young one of Heartbreak Hotel
But the fat jump-suited Vegas one who crooned
Love Me Tender. She made a pilgrimage
To Graceland tottering on plump feet
Encased in patent leather pumps and later
As she soaked in Epsom Salts, dreamed
Of sparkles and dyed black pompadours. 

Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, Midwestern Gothic and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 17 books including  Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Three of her poems have been featured on Verse Daily and another is among the winners of the 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest.  Her newest books are Carnival (FutureCycle Press) and The Seven Heavenly Virtues (Kelsay Press). Forthcoming in January, 2018 is Her Heartsongs from Presa Press. Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Good Works Review.

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