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J. Wesley Fullerton

J. Wesley Fullerton lives in western Washington, where he grew up and frittered away much of his youth. His work has appeared in Poetry Town: an Anthology of Bellingham Poets, Wrestlings, and in numerous coffeehouses and saloons where the spoken word is met with catcalls, wolf-whistles and jeers. Currently he resides in the small, mole-infested town of Burlington, where he raises his family, builds motorcycles, and writes poetry, not necessarily in that order.


goodbye coney island

The days are easy and tired of breathing
and smooth to the touch from giving in, the days
don't struggle much--
are sweetened in the belly and
softened in the thigh
to a calm
digestible
sadness,

and
sure;

sometimes you might find between
the smoke-rubbed corners
and the burnt ends of the daylight
where the midway lights still flicker now and then,
a rusty glint in the eye of some last
wonder some final glory where
the new world once stood
and boasted, you might
catch a glimpse, a
sweet
and
fleeting
romantic
glimpse of
ass, or
victory, some
cold crumb of truth or beauty like
a child dancing for nickels, or
a weasel licking its
newborns clean,
a white rose drooped to kiss
the earwigs at its roots, or
all the show tunes you can think of stuffed
in the windy head of a street musician who
plays 10 cents a song with 7 good fingers and
a banjo,
you might get that, enough
to make you laugh or sniffle a bit for
all the shining faces gone by,

or maybe something a little more drastic like
a cornergirl selling her organs at market
by the fish stand where the fish peddlers secretly
cry beneath their skins
for all the lush impoverished hard alcoholic nights they might
squeeze from the sponge of her
flesh, you might get
a little car crash drama
action-packed full of heartattack and ugliness on
4th street and Charles where the ambulance lights
and cop sirens barker to the onlookers stopped on street-
corners eating popcorn candy soda ice cream sandwiches and it's
better than the circus,
whatever gets you
up what makes your flesh
croon your heart
plump
and quiver with feeling like a cold poached egg
in your chest again, what makes love's memory move
against you again as you fumble for tenderness
with hands smooth as a thorn bush, warm
as cooked milk to your insides makes you
burn with what raw ember still
foolishly burns inside you,
what speaks to you
of truth
or beauty, a dimebag a crumb
no bigger than a gold tooth or a buffalo head
nickel
to hold on to, you might get that,
and it is enough
you hope, it is
enough
to bless you
and carry you
all the way back home
tonight.

© J. Wes Fullerton


Salvation Blues

On Brinkley St. the mission stiffs break
their hours and days like bread
chew their minutes
with salt, and wait
for God--

he might come
with the noon lunch crowd up Second hawking flowers 
to the bankers, or down between the crowded shoulders 
of the dayshift workers on 
Third, he might come
from a city bus pouring out hats and coats 
and faces straining through pneumatic-opened doors, down 
the sidewalk passing sparrows pigeons and squirrels hunting 
for spare change and crumbs, he might 
come
for the dollar ninety-nine ham and eggs and side of toast
special at the Last Ditch Cafe, where the cooks 
and the waitresses look thin in the face could all use
a few pounds when they smile and recommend 
anything but the clams, 
he might come to them
with sunshine, with breakfast, with syphilis, with a heralding
of chrome horns blowing diesel and hallelujah from a rolling mighty
freight train wailing all its poor its tired its hungry railroad tracks 
into a union song anthem harmonica blues of don't the stars shine sweet 
down on the turned-up toes of yo' po' daddy done worked himself 
into a ditch? shouldered up between the traffic crossings and the 
tunnels of the city he might come
in whispers, in smells, in cans and bottles in old brown trousers,
hell-bent for leather clad in blue jeans gold rings and Foster Grant
wraparound sunglasses smoking the wheels off a '49 Hog he might come
drunk, half-naked dressed in a bathrobe stolen from the Howard Johnson
Hotel, or in a breath of humanly lust and brilliance, sly and delicious 
in muscular poetry of two slippery legs luxuriant in their 
flesh spring scent blood rose and furry abandon only
narrowly disguised, yes 
like that even he
might come, 
dreaming the daylight in a belly of fog 
and rainshower down MacLellan St. falling 
to their naked lips 
their snailsoft eyes, 
to their cheeks with a cold and sexless kiss 
of rain like any autumn, 
winter
or spring he might come
falling angelic from a 25th story high-rise apartment
window down to a sudden April bloom of soft life against wet
pavement to make the morning papers,
risen from the dead as a rag ghost wandering 
slow and lonely in the smokecrippled breeze
with a bedroll waterjug a half-pint can of beans up
Chelsea Ave. looking for a cigarette, he might 
come tumbling wounded cartwheels with the old news and sandwich
papers, blown along the curbside past their feet like drunken butterflies he 
might come half-starved and dizzy bothering passers-by for a 
dollar, a kiss, a penny for their thoughts a prayer for their
children, for all the cheap shoes all the chopped meat and all the bad days 
in the world he might come

soft and violet in the belly of a rat
whose 4 white feet between the bricklayed cracks of old 
buildings whisper its heart-beat-beats through the wall, 
echoing in the mouths of cans and bottles boxes the least of places 
in all the world while bored cattle burp and sway 
in hot rice fields of Asia, 
and thin kids poke at sad potatoes
for hidden miracles of candy that are 
sugartongued lullabies in their stomachs tonight, he might 
come rising between the the icecracked sidewalk on the nose 
of a mushroom, 
between the trash cans cropped along the alleyways blooming
like great stinking daisies he might come
hissing in a gesture of sewer steam rising up
ghost-cool and odorless out the nostrils of a manhole, 
or from the cooked steam of canned peas corn and beans 
at suppertime he might come to them
half-melted in a carton of vanilla ice cream
to caress their throats and drip down the stubble
of their un-boyish chins, good to their bellies and bones 
but they won't know.

O sons of man O children of god you will not
see him coming but in your dreams he will come
as a Mountain Lion deathlessly moving 
through the velvet calm silence of its skin, 
through the anesthetized midnight, smooth 
and noiseless, on mute feet stepping between 
your falling breaths he will 
come to you 
with blessings to preen your hair and lick you clean
and nibble the sorrows from your bodies as you sleep,
and you will drink from his teats and painlessly dream 
of the eyes you had once, of the ghost in your skins 
crisp and unwrinkled and waiting to be born.

© J. Wes Fullerton


you're better off with a dog

Poetry is a rotten excuse for a friend
when you're down, it is
hacked smoke and closed windows and socks
unchanged for days, it is 
sick
spirits on ice and soda, and strange
illegal corrosive ghostwhite
powders swimming your
arteries--
and today,
Poetry was the skeleton of
an old lover massaging my
neck, with thin bones fondling 
my shoulders, leaning
sweetly to my ear, she said Come on
sugar, one more for me and so
I tried,
I tried to get it
up, I slapped it black
and blue against 
the keys, wrung it out and 
squeezed it like a tube of tooth-
paste, but
for all the sweat
and bother, for all the hump and backache there was
just a gas bill, 
two ladybugs, 5 
empty 
glasses and one
crumpled 
skin
of a heart

© J. Wes Fullerton


1944

In the gas chamber we all kept our breasts and our penises 
corralled like little children, kept from touching one another as 
we waited for things to happen, for though crowded 
as a train station with everyone boarding we thought it the polite 
thing to do. These were the last months of the war, and you could
feel a sense of urgency about things-- our papers stamped with 
undutiful haste, our belongings rudely collected-- 
not much time left for details. Passing the minutes we stood in our 
bodies, all of us wishing for pockets, a shoe to tap, an unwound watch or
newspaper, something. It was awkward and no one could think of making
small talk. We were tired. We had traveled now for many days, many
days without rest, in dark cars with poor facilities and everyone needed a
hot shower.
Someone noticed a lack of soap. With so many of us,
how would we share? 

© J. Wes Fullerton


21 flavors

It is a good day here where we loaf down the hours
into mid-day, afternoon
and evening, a good day to kiss the dog
and talk of things that matter to little
or nothing.
The bills are paid,
the week's work done, the babies nursed and filled
with sleep.
There is time
to let the mail pile up, time
for the dust on the floor, time for the bananas
and apples growing old and time for the weeds
to sprout and sneak up silent
to the door. 

The house yawns and stretches on its timbers. 

The kitchen sink sings of spoons, dirty dishes,
and the ice cream truck comes calling, calling,
calling us out with nursery rhymes for sugar and 21 flavors,
calling us out to the middle of the street where we gather with the eager-
ness
of spring bees circling a broken
plum. 
It is a good day. 
We have ice cream, we have
bread, we have beer and spaghetti and
salad for dinner and we are
not sorry, we are not looking for
the clear soul the day has
not yet given us-- 
we are only looking
for the shade's blessing,
two comfortable chairs,
a silly joke at the end of a fudgsicle
stick which we laugh about
anyway when our tongues are slick
and cold as sleeping trout
and we want nothing more
than a good slow tune
on the radio. 

When we speak, it is the sound
of the faucet dripping,
a car passing by, the birds
frittering away their song, nothing more, and
between the drowsing spaces of the things we leave
unsaid, it is clear
to us, it is
very
clear--

no one will remember us
this day, or the next, no one
will remember all the work of hours spent burning at
desks, burning behind steering wheels,
burning into dirt and metal, money
and wood, books and national
holidays and
love, no one will remember us
after we have counted all the sparrows on the wires one by
one, made bets on which would fly, after we have
kissed our children, grown tired in our bodies,
resigned ourselves to sleep with all
the time we let ease by us
for no other reason than it was good, yes good
to let it go.

© J. Wes Fullerton


bermuda triangle

3
linen
sheets
to the wind and listing
dangerously
to the leeward, she says
My love, wearily as if I
might be palm trees, white sand
tamed bird of paradise (she
who through soft silences rolls
close to me, her
underbelly washed up
whitely on my side shows me reef
scars, barnacle tattoos, algae tint of a long life
out at sea) she
breathes salt, derelict whispers
to my ear I
love
you, and
between the constellations faintly
mapped across my belly she draws
a heart tri-
angularly touching east
west and south, which
she may yet navigate, and find
some still harbor among the moon's
other magnetisms, the deep death pull
of the sea, the loose-limbed rigging
of her ill-shored embrace, and
all the calm misdirections
of stars

© J. Wes Fullerton


breakfast time in the city of wilderness

Elly is a dream in hairclips and sneakers built
slender and efficient from 
the ribs of young 
gazelles
by 
some godly, benevolent, and slick-clawed 
tiger
who loves her, even 
in drought season, when
she serves him biscuits
and coffee, and he is bound 
to a strict 
diet
of angels

© J. Wes Fullerton


Dear K.,

So maybe there are roots and stars and the suckling pull 
of the moon, and more infant mornings in the world than
this shoebox of our hopes will ever cradle; so maybe
while rocking back and forth a rhythm to nurse our heart-
beats down at 1 A.M. these 
real hours of shade and hollow are more a slow 
digestion of our skins than soft un-music to dream by;
and maybe some days a star or two unstuck from heaven
or someplace, curled stray and feral at your morning doorstep
finds you.
So maybe these come to us half for lack
of any good fortune, for lack of any other solace
to keep them. So what.

Once I found a bird
hobbling half-feathered across my yard with maybe 
ten, or twenty 
good breaths left. Above us both was sunshine and early May.
Bird was hollow underneath, his ribs
brittle as toothpicks-- I filled him
with bag balm, with tissue paper, with water and a small
prayer, small as 
a crumb. He wouldn't stomach anything bigger than that.
I let him finish in a cool paper box with soft dish towels and 
a screen on top. That night, I wrapped him up and laid him down
twelve inches beneath a juniper tree. 
He's still there. 

Now and again, 
in early May when mowing the grass I say hello to the dandelions
which he grows, and I remember 
a brief, and fleeting kindness that never once lived 
without him. What I mean to say is what loves us chooses
or does not choose a time or place or form
to greet us by-- some days a bird, some days
the stars, some days simply the words
of you and I, which are born and given
and buried and remembered 
no stranger and no less
than love.
Sincerely, wesley

© J. Wes Fullerton


dimebag in blue
(for Billie Holiday)

Sweet lady day likes a slow tune good
as the sweat that pillows in your eyes and makes 
your aging lover look like
heaven itself--
when you roll the way that 
clarinets roll
in their arms, lips, legs (and oh
baby those piano fingers like heaven itself) parted
open round the blossom of her mouth sounds like 
love again as the bass man swings
with that beat-hump-maudlin-beat of heart-
break and 
thumps out soft
a rhythm slow and almost good
as the old black tar blood and 
cooking spoon habit slinking 
lustful up her veins like a run in her 
stocking, 
a slow tune 
soft and almost
good enough to feel again
those jazzangelic, white wings not quite
heaven to her shoulders sweetly
wilt 
and swing,
shrivel 
and sway,
sag to the rhythm 
like love.

© J. Wes Fullerton