Volume 9 (Spring 2015)

Charlie Bondhus

The Divining Board

You trust the old Slovak

reading your palm for pennies

the way you trust your grandmother

as she takes your wrist in peasant grip

and guides you into the tenement where,

through heavy walls,

a language too jagged for your mouth,

shifts like the late afternoon glyphs of sunlight.

A poor man sits on the landing,

seeking spirits in a dish.

A child in underwear and oversized tee

lies near the hall window,

scratching a colorless crayon

in a water-stained notebook.

Tinfoil stars hang from the ceiling

where she seats you by the stove's

golden heat and points to the divining board, saying:

begin with “A” for all-seeing,

then “B” for what came before. “C”

is what is to come: the future,

like fresh-hung linens. Then, the rest of the alphabet

rowed evenly as years or signs

on a star chart.

The upturned glass slides, cat-like

beneath her fingers;

speaking letter-by-letter, she says

Your life speaks.

Your life speaks in symbols.

Your life is a symbol.

The tinfoil stars turn on their black strings.

The child scribbles an American cartoon character.

The poor man holds the dish in one hand,

covers his left eye with the other.

From deep within an unlit hallway, a baby cries

the common language of discontent.

Charlie Bondhus' second book, All the Heat We Could Carry, won the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and the Publishing Triangle's 2014 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. Previous publications include How the Boy Might See It (Pecan Grove Press, 2009), and two chapbooks, What We Have Learned to Love—winner of the Brickhouse Books 2008-2009 Stonewall Award—and Monsters and Victims (Gothic Press, 2010). He teaches at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey, and is the Poetry Editor at The Good Men Project (goodmenproject.com).

On Libations: "His favorite libation is the ever-classy whisky, which he generally waters down with diet soda."