POEMS by Robert Oliver Leaver Jr.

Touch Return

The dream muscle 
as the click finger
grows strong.
We are the land
of triggers.
This fall
hunters are staying home
in record numbers.
Choose the couch,
watch the game,
check out some porn,
play video war.
Evolution will make us
forget how to
wander alone and wait
patiently in search
of a real shot.
It will be a lonely day
when we lose the power
to bring home a stranger,
imagine the whisper,
undress the curve.


Little boys don't play peace-
they play war.
They play war because
war has awesome stuff:
Danger! Action! Blood!
Peace is tame.
War is wild!
War takes friends and
enemies must pay!
Peace is good for naps.
When someone gets hurt,
war won't stop,
not for a few tears.
It doesn’t matter
if we are cry babies. 
War likes tears.
War won't kiss anything
and make it better.
Peace just rang the dinner bell.
Ceasefire as the sun sinks down into the trees.
A voice sings in the distance.
Peace waves her hands,
striding toward us
across the minefield.



I find a dead barn owl
and I cut off the feet,
ankles tough as rebar.
Hacksaw and sweat
for two talons,
dream weapons
masterpieces of
brutal seizing
puncture and flight.

I hold one in each hand.
A blessing.  And a curse.
But which is which?
Right or left?

My father finds me in the mountains
A sudden visit.
He cuts to the chase
Telling me with whisky
by the midnite fire
beneath the maple
and the powerline
that he is more than sick.

I roll the dice and
give him half
of what I stole
from the bird.

He takes it home.
He gets better.

And every night
I go blind.




I don’t mind 
the blooming daffodils
the frantic robins
building broken blue egg baskets
shrieking their arias
between slow worms
and stinging bees.
What gets me down 
is the other sound,
the one getting louder,
the blood pulse liquid
rushing through
my dark tunnels.
I can’t stop hearing,
can’t stop listening to my
thick heart pump
the whole system,
oblivious and doomed.
At the height of life
I lie down on the great lawn
my spine meets the earth
I spy a hawk speck
soaring distant thermals.
Turns out to be
just a gnat.
I reach out
and snatch it.



You step into her office
Hat in hand wondering 
If she knows where
Things stand 
In regards to 
Your position
She has so many chins
And no lips
And her voice
Like Ava Gardner
Mixing the message
Her curdled creamy hand 
Your leather elbow 
The Seniors love you, she says
But it appears
We won’t be offering
The creative writing class
Next semester
It’s a budget issue
But in all honesty
It’s mostly due
To your careless thoughts
Your choice of topic
The way you use words
Let’s just say it invites
Dangerous feelings.


Twenty years later
they catch a train
downtown to Restoration
Hardware hunting
Brushed nickel handles 
for the new kitchen
up the stairs 
to Union Square
she limps on a bad knee
behind her he is forced
to go slow and tell her
“We gave each other our prime,    
the very best we will ever be,
and look,
and move,
and now it's gone!
You treacherous witch,
how dare you grow old?
Who gave you the right
to steal my life?”
She flips him the bird
over her good shoulder
They reach the surface laughing,
take a deep breath,
and buy some cheese.


A pair of bald eagles
Across from the diner
In a dead pine above
The rising river
Raw cold, gentle rain
A sign promises
The finest Alpine Lifestyle
Fog and mud
Dread knots my chest
Machines broken down
Motels boarded up
The mountains wash away
As I drive the truck East
The boy in the backseat
Whispers to himself
Then pulls me into
A game of twenty questions
To kill time
Pick an animal, Dad.
Do you have feathers?
Do you eat meat?
Are you dangerous?
Have I ever
Seen you before?


The crows blow
across the sky
above the graveyard
like black handkerchiefs
harassing the hawk
your mouth is full of sores
it was hard to say goodbye
to Dad
when he left this morning
with the rain
cities turn to dunes
in certain directions
every father goes
northbound on a train
and now your afternoon
roars golden 
and the crows are still at it
like kites without string
free of everything
but themselves
caught between
blue sky and tombstones.


Think, ice clink and grin
The same way everyday
In the hour
Before dinner
Shake off shadows
Cook up the macaroni
In the sunset kitchen
At the warped cherry
Table with a refill
Watch him eat
Get the click
On an empty stomach
You talk Lego and
Outer space weaponry
He wants to know
What he smelled like
When he was born
He slips from his throne
Slides over and climbs up 
Into your lap
Elbows and knees
Your eyeballs burn
His golden hair
Dad, he says
It’s getting dark
Let’s turn on some lights.


Between his sobs
at the bathroom sink before bed
your son manages to say,
"I want you to shoot me-
that's what I need
you to do
because I'm dumb,
you make me feel like a rat,
when I'm just a boy."
he is only six
and you are mute
sitting on the edge of the tub
holding his red toothbrush
wondering how much
language means
gripped for a second
by the possibility
that love is helpless
and he is bound
for a long night
of cruel dreams.



i used to think
if i worked out 
a lot
i could get 
a new physique
now physique
sounds like
the name
of a hair-dresser
down south
or a pimp
trying to sound French
when fully dressed
I might
appear fit
if a bit 
my plan is
to become light
so that by the end
anyone can
carry me.


I never forget a face
or a name
everything I've ever read
or heard

I actually remember
being born
sliding out
with ease
into the cool air
and before that
my mother's heart 
the drum of love

in the darkness
conception is distant
but i do recall

she was riding a horse
down a dirt road
the moment
I began.


scraped from his boy knee
still there
barely cooking
in the dead grain
of warm summer concrete
until tonight’s rain
washes it loose
on gray waves
out of Central Park
swept away on the current
gutters gush
down monster pipes
beneath the city
crumbs of his flesh 
feed tiny fishes
the rest of him lays awake
uptown in the dark
with his dagger and shield 
counting the seconds between
lightning and thunder.



If we are lucky
We will lose everything
When we are old
The memories
Will cover us
Like a blanket
If we play our cards right
Our hearts will crack
And craze together like
Wedding china
In a fallen
Snow covered barn
If we are blessed
We will live to waltz
Through the night
And lay our holy
Frames down slow
Together in the final
Resting place.