Sunday, May 1, 2022




The Price Of Tents For The Homeless


It was 2020. Walmart sold Ozark Trail 3-Person Outdoor

Camping Dome Tents for twenty-four ninety-four

which is cheaper than the 1-Person Backpacker.

A sweet suite for the homeless. Essential heroes

sell these with a smile, hacking into their shirt

sleeves while running the ringer and bagging

full-time homes for no-time workers.


Lake-effect wind pierces the petty in unsettled grudges,

long-time memories of laughing around the kitchen

card table as a turkey bathes in the broiler.

Those days are done.


As nylon hearths and zippered walls appear in underpasses,

the essential hero clerks who helped handle the homeless

use food stamps and part of their petty paychecks

to reward the monocratic mid-merging monopolies

that employ them—pure applause and empty words

is all that they’ll reap, for these heroes aren’t allowed to sow.


Empty words, like the empty snow falling on empty hearts

as empty vessels open their empty tents and apartments,

illuminated by this worthless, empty poem that does nothing

For anyone.


It is now 2022. Those tents now cost four times as much.



Claudia found herself

in a field of wildflowers.

She arrived as a woman

yet lay down as a girl—

thin, green grass reeds

pulling at her earrings,

crickets tickling her limbs.


Clouds sailed overhead,

whispering secrets down

to the trees, which agreed and

paused from playing rootsie together,

just long enough to wrap Earthy tendrils

under Claudia's skirt and over her forehead.

She spaced, not to who she was but what she wanted.

The arms of a lover she'd yet to discover

and she thought until she wrenched

her headphones off in order

to better listen, to what.

The clouds knew what.

So did the trees. And

for the first in some

time, Claudia

felt free.


She drove the tour bus to peak point

and allowed the intrusive tree roots

to snake. She realized the apple offered

wasn't a sin and she wondered how

the vines pulse and meld into skin.

Claudia's shoots shot up the same

wavelength of the pulsing life around.


Above Mother Nature looked on,

breathing that mellow rhythm

and together they were.


She returned

pollen dusted.


Funeral In Rivesville

West Virginia


The first dead body I witnessed exuded

coolness, a calm air around his closed eyes,

the aura not wholly gone but actively diminishing—

kept more alive by moonshine than vegetables.


Coal miners, the relatives of coal miners,

the wives of miners—people who learned how

to extract the relevant from the sandy nonsensical,

and in open witness to their lifeless Earthward stare


lovingly hurled insults with the affection of friends

who’d worked the fields together for decades,

told tales (some of them true), reflected warmly (all of it love),

and built a permanent corridor with the right reflections to briefly immortalize


a man, they say, that until his late 80s mowed

the slopes of his holler nook with a scythe,

made his own honey and syrup, outfoxed the fish

and outfiddled the Devil with spare time to raise children.


a man, they say, who offered so much to his family

that he’s less of a period—with one era giving way

to another—and more of a comma, where his sentence

meanders to new next-gen addendums of those he inspired.


a man, they say whose faith inspired Danny

to become a preacher, his knack for tinkering to

compel Estel to OSU for engineering, and taught

Ethan why nihilism is sometimes warranted.


a man, they say who lassoed the stars to convince

his wife to marry him, and bore the scar on his left

hand as proof. A good life’s transition to death is

a series of untaxed memories scattered to celebratory legend.


The price to skip school that day was to witness

the fading shadow of a man who cast as long

as giants at sunset, and found the hidden valley,

the nook—the safekeepers of his fading glory.

The Less-Traveled Street


Everyone knows

that the less-traveled street

is covered

with vines and potholes—

there's no incentive



or otherwise

from city council

to fix the road.


The council says if the residents don't like it

they should move. It was their choice, after all

they argue

to buy a house on the less-traveled street

and live there.


But they were born there.


Born and stuck in houses that don't sell

where they learned to love

the deer which lapped at well-kept bird baths,

the welcoming aroma of Claudia's weekly bonfire,

the community spirit as Jake cuts his cake

wearing his best heels to impress BillyBob.

Who, for the record, is indeed impressed.


The city council tried to help

by writing a zoning law

to cancel bonfires on the less-traveled street.

"I have to see your smoky bonfires

polluting my air

every time I drive

home from my son's

on Friday night,"

complains Miss Daisy.

"This is a family town,"

says four-time adulterer

Chris Wilson.


The city council is old and unforgiving.

They don't like anything that flames

too brightly,

anything that twinkles

through the trees

like a sequin dress on a Mormon dance floor.


The spirit of the less-traveled street

coils in anticipation like a snake

and is equally as misunderstood.

Like the others around Claudia's bonfires

a snake slithers unnoticed under leaves

wishing for legs.


Rows of carrots and cucumbers and radishes

and beans and lettuce and peppers

and other symbols of rigorous toil

take root wherever they are placed

and once they start growing

the vegetables put on aprons and pray

hoping they aren't violating someone else's space.


For the garden produce tell tales of Freddie the tomato

which sprouted in the grass,

where he was beheaded by the humans

multiple times

until the roots withered and stopped trying.


The less-traveled street is rooted together,

wailing against the howling gale

there's less of them

screaming into a much louder wind

but you can hear them if you try.

The roots, intertwined, keep one another

from blowing away.


And Claudia's bonfires remind city council

that like it or not

they're there to stay.




JEREMY JUSEK is the inaugural poet laureate of Parma, Ohio. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Arcadia University and authored the collection We Grow Tomatoes in Tiny Towns (2019). He hosts the Ohio Poetry Association's podcast Poetry Spotlight, runs the West Side Poetry Workshop he created in 2015, and founded the Flamingo Writers Guild in 2021. He is the philanthropy director and board member for the nonprofit Young Professionals of Parma, and he started the Jeremy Jusek Mentorship Fellowship through Marietta College. For more info on his publications and projects, please visit

No comments :

Post a Comment