Poems by Stephan Delbos
In those untrammelled days
of absolute summer adolescence,
dinner was intermission
before twilight’s final act:
slow ungluing of sun
down glassy sky
as trees’ last gasps sent
frantic bats skittering
drunken through thickened dark,
hunting insects and tennis balls
we threw to make them turn break
-neck, swarming the park.
Someone had stolen the bike,
a chrome-framed Huffy,
toothy black tires ours now,
the two-block tribe and so
we took it for the holy grail
of ghost rides, spectral prank:
pushed bike rolling downhill
steadied by glass hands of gravity
swervy off the road’s edge
spinning spokes and red reflectors.
In that divorcee neighborhood
Ron Derry was tallest and troubled.
Had the hatchet, lifted
from an unsuspecting shed.
Took it like a tomahawk to tires,
one swift slash front and back
because this is what we are doing
on the summit of that blacktop hill
where we let the bike go.
I wonder, watching mind’s Super 8,
the moment that bike turned
perfect at the intersection and
as if guided, glided past the courthouse,
Registry of Deeds, town green,
threaded long downhill to Main St.
through two lanes of cruising cars
hopped the curb and smashed a townie’s
whisky-sipping sidewalk bench. We bolted.
This August night at what is now
our parents’ house, vacationing,
brothers sit until false dawn,
drinking in citronella candlelight,
projecting childhood off one
other avid witness to the ghost.
Each spring I dance with my head in a noose
and my arm in a sling. In summer I choose
gin and the orthodox church of cancer, whose
mecca is the sun. We love it. We lose.
In winter I die. But come back. I rise.
The health of my enemies makes me sick.
About the poet
Stephan Delbos is a New England-born writer who divides his time between New England and Prague, where he teaches at Anglo-American University and Charles University. His poetry, essays and translations have appeared most recently in Absinthe, Agni, Atlanta Review, BlazeVOX, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Fourteen Hills, Financial Times, Full Metal Poem, Grasp, New Letters, Oxonian Review, Poetry International, Poetry Salzburg Review, Rakish Angel, Return of Kral Majales, and Zoland Poetry. He is the editor of From a Terrace in Prague: A Prague Poetry Anthology (Litteraria Pragensia, 2011). A collection of visual, music-inspired poems, “Bagatelles for Typewriter,” was exhibited at Prague’s ArtSpace Gallery in May 2012. His first full-length play, “Chetty’s Lullaby,” about the life of trumpet legend Chet Baker, has been produced in New York and San Francisco. His co-translation of The Absolute Gravedigger, by Czech poet Vítězslav Nezval, was awarded the PEN/Heim Translation grant in 2015 and is scheduled for publication by Twisted Spoon Press in 2016. He is a founding editor of B O D Y.