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Mustering What’s Left

Selected & New Poems

1976 – 2017

Roger Aplon

Copyright © 2018 Roger Aplon

Published by Unsolicited Press


The Editors & Publishers who thought enough of these poems

to place them between covers honoring them

with their imprint


Debra Kaye

who vigorously encouraged this compilation


In memory of my Father, Carl Aplon,

who never acknowledged the importance of poetry

but to whom I owe an unpaid debt of gratitude


This collection (ranging over 40 years), should be visited as a ‘history,’ a partial investigation of one writer’s evolution. Many of the early poems (especially – The Monologues) were cursed, celebrated, maligned &/but eventually acknowledged as ‘in the spirit of their time’.

Which, it should be noted, is in keeping with my intent as a writer: to capture in image & tenor an impressionistic rendering of the color & character of the world as I’ve experienced it.

That said, never being at ease with a single, limited ‘voice,’ I found myself exploring a different tone of ‘voice’ with each subsequent volume.

From the monological explorations in Stiletto to the impressionistic responses to contemporary music in Improvisations the rhythms & images I’ve chosen were meant to encourage the curious reader to respond viscerally – maybe touching a nerve that might otherwise remain innocent.


F r o m


1 9 7 6

If Your Skin

If your skin were fine sand

I’d burrow

to the bone

planting apples for the morning.

If your skin were slate

I’d chisel leaves

& branches

bowed with yellow blossoms.

If your skin were moss

I’d drift in the tendrils

sleep between your ribs

with the drowsy snails.

If your skin were oil of cobalt blue

I’d scribble fingers

with long strokes

up & down the breathing of your spine.

If your skin were field grass

I’d rake the cuttings gently

sucking down

the faint odor of rain.

If your skin were rivers

I’d bob for crayfish in the pools

rescue quail & white peacocks

from the flooded banks.

If your skin were air

I’d conjure bats to glide


through the waves of tiny flying eyes.

If your skin were ice

I’d wrap you in the womb of a wolf

stroking her belly

with oil of mulberry & eucalyptus.

If your skin

under my hands

almost iridescent

in this dark room

reached warming

your sealed, secret, supple

skin . . .

I Call Her Name

Her face is a razor

stropped keen in dark barley.

Her hands are combs

cleaning dust from quicksilver.

She’s alone in her house of hair.

Her cunt’s a wasp

she flutters her hips to call

small children from the dead lagoon.

She’s a wolf whining.

Green quirts sing in the corral

where she prowls, her skin invisible.

She bursts on me like glass

blown in the oven of a mouth

sucking the cock of a goat.

She shits incognito.

Behind the barn of her fine breasts

retrievers masturbate in silk socks.

She’s a boot

sipping mud at each stitch, luminous

as butter, fat as dandelions.

She seduces corn.

Her silent nails tattoo butterflies

in the nostrils of buffalo.

Her thighs are walls.

I call her name.

She hustles my groceries in moving vans.

I call her name.

I demand an answer in her meat.

She must fuck the monkeys of Toledo.

I call her name.

She’s hidden in the glove of a dancer.

She’s riding the roads with a light colonel.

She will not answer.

No grenade can tear her from her new supper.

Watch Out

Over my eyes

the fat spring

leaves spill and the street

tilts its mouth

so full of glass

& grins back

to me at the corner,

I wonder how long it will take

to walk this block with its 17 people that I know

The sun peppers the cement with tiny dimes

and the twelve yellow numbers, eyes begin

to shinny up the windows

I have 344 more steps to the other corner and another 389 steps

to the next corner after that and another 401 steps in the next

block to the next corner after that and another 3 . . .

(an eye [blue] stops at my right shoulder

but if i turn my head . . .)

the beggar stares down deep

to the bottom of his cup

There's a cut on the back of my right index finger

1 watch it grow

2 holes, I watch

the diamondback curls over the ledge watching me watch my finger begin to thinly slip open a little more and drip a little more blood and it watches me watch it on the ledge begin to coil away to the grey grass between the slabs of slate and there are 2 holes on the back of my index and there is and now the silver oil begins to circle the 2 holes

only 6 left to pass, counting—

146 147 . . .

there's 1 (brown) eye in the air to my left

there're 2 (green) beside the rear wheel of a '63

they all look and they

(there are only 61 steps)

see me count my way to the corner

and i think how tight i am

in my black galoshes.

All My Life . . .

. . . in a minute d’judge’ll come an do me

m’I a fool

sittin here

all shut down . . .

why now

all my life

I fought

all my life

til now . . .

deese fuzz mine me a mass

an d’tag-along brothas

wouldn’t tink twice den bout

splittin a bad scene . . .

maybe I figure somethin out

it’s too big t’hustle usual

you gotta have a scam t’match da odds

dey heavy an dey know da score

. . . if I jus cool it an pretend . . .

d’las time I did dis way

I’s in the back a d’man’s car

he thought I’s the babe in the woods

t’hear him talk

never miss’d his gun


all t’way t’hell

wonder if dey figger dat one

an me doin time for rippin off some ol’ dude

I’s a stron yun dude

an tha’s a fa’t

If I’s t’cop a plea

dey’s mos like t’pass

an if dey burn me

I got ways

all my life

I got ways . . .


I could always swim in the big winter waves

or slide through the shrubs

hiding my face in my hands.

I grew my own food

in the place my mother hid me.

On dark nights I’d wind down

following the dim light of the river

and crouch at the edge of the town.

I once came close to a house

and heard the song a small girl sang

as she rocked her brother in her arms.

. .

They came to me one winter

holding hands in the snow.

They didn’t seem to be afraid.

They only asked for a place to stay.

We shared berries and the bread they’d brought.

That was years ago.

I’ve taught them the secret of riding the waves

and how to speak with their eyes.

I especially love the sounds they make

When their bodies touch.


We make a cradle of our bodies

lying in each other’s lap

rocking. The small waves barely hum

against the struts of the old pier.

It’s no accident

we’ve chosen this high place

where the sounds of the gulls ripen

and the wind rests easily at sunset.

At night we can be invisible

the only hint of our presence

your raised breast glowing

in my hand

your thighs hugging

my cock into you.

We hold our breath just

for a second

listen for the kiss

of the huge goldfish

who’ve begun to move toward us

over the moss-covered stones.

A Christmas Present

I’m on a high-backed sofa in the Al-La-Deen, got a scotch

n’water working an another on the table. There’s this chick

doing the popcorn tryin t’get her tights straight an a off-duty

priest sluggin on a warm beer. The bartender’s drying a glass

when the door opens an in walks this Amazon 6 feet if she’s

an inch.She’s got this long, shiny black hair that looks like

combed tar an when she takes the seat cross from me I bout

shit. The bartender comes round t’get her order for a gin

over while I light the cigarette she’s squeezin an pushin with

lips that work like bellows. We got it together, I think, when

she leans down with this big grin an starts t’shimmy from the

seat reeel slow, til she’s up all the wayan reachin for this

switch –The next thing I know, she’s got her hair offan she’s

hangin it over a chair, an then her lips, an nose, an . . . she

keeps takin it all apart an layin it down til there ain’t nothin

left cept her eyes lookin up from the palm a one hand, an I

see the priest’s asleep an the bartender’s readin the scores

so I gulp my scotch t’make it when this mouth comes off the

table growlin “where in hell you goin with my new toy?”

F r o m

By Dawn’s Early Light At 120 Miles Per Hour

1 9 8 3


For Karin Epperlein


her suicide was first

something disallowed inside the heart.

She is young

has learned early

the art

of positioning her body

to manipulate her legs

walk on her hands

parade her naked hips

upside down

to make us partners.


My body wants to leap cartwheel flip

I decry pretense

will be irrevocably exposed

at one with the surf

only the moon to guide the tides.

I’ll be drenched in sweat

and the sweet musk of the coconut

a juice as unique as my own.


Her sisters arrive

pass out knives

adjust their machines

connect the wires

load the guns

fill the rubber bags w/blood.

This is their solo

And I’m their witness

someone to hold the props.

When they plug in the wires

it’s my signal to bleed.

I’ve learned to be brave

encourage them

it’s been agreed.


I shower and rest.

Mother is upset.

She brings my robe.

I drink a cup of juice

joke with the horny stagehands.

I will die two more times tonight.

I do this willingly

watch the audience

flick my small wet tongue


the real killers.

The last will be in water

dark as origins

where the dead

can drift

unscathed . . .

and who will come

to confirm

the doing

who will testify

it is done

and who will say

the strike was made by them . . .

By water then

where great orange fish


at eye

or mouth

or genital

where the corpse can settle


and safe

white as any dream

born in your fetid air.

(After a performance by SOON 3, San Francisco, CA 1982)

Rasslin – a found poem

For Neil Lehrman

Jus in case I didn mention

I’m from Florida

home a the Seminole –


bullshit & gators . . .

You drive the swamp – see big boards advertisin

the prime bouts

It’s the fack

celebrates these parts –

Rasslin Gators

A one-time thrill – no shit

got dudes in town

walkin roun

in half their skin

beats cockfights n bullfights all t’hell . . .

Well, I’m gonna do this tune bout rasslin gators – cep

that alays minds me of another story bout

bein back home fur the cure

drugs & all that shit – I’m

in this center see

where this dude

jacks-off every morning bout 5 am

wakes the whole damn place

humpin & hollerin

like he’s possessed

I swear t’Christ

He never even used his hands

Jus humped the goddamn bed

rubbin right through the sheets

like none a us was even there –

Now I don put down jackin off, fack

I wish we’s all that free – no

it’s that noise, all that thrashin round – almost like he’s

pained ur scared – yeah – like – you got it – like rasslin

like rasslin gators

(After a performance by Sandy Bull May 20, 1976

San Francisco, CA)

October 9, 1967

For Che Guervara

Toads sing at sundown

Long, rhythmic chants

Like the clapping of shoes.

Hoot owls light the sky.

Roosters molt in the jack-pine

Turning blue.

I camp in the snail’s track. Small

veiled girls serenade my night,

their soft bones turned

fodder for the goats.

The mountains are hardest

Trails like polished eyes.

I slake my thirst on the lips of tigers,

rest in the throats of hummingbirds.

In La Paz

I sell my teeth for beetle’s wings, trade

radios for gunpowder,

assemble bombs.

I visit Beirut

400 Moslems shit & belch-up fisheyes,

in Terre Haute they crush my hands,

castrate the horse,

flog my mole till his asshole pops;

Dallas buries my tongue,

Hangs my skull in dormitory windows.

I keep to the backroads.

My eyes leave a slick trail on your bedroom doors.

Your plumbing’s jammed with my clenched fist.

I’m under your collar

Burrowing along your spine.

Midwestern Christmas

The boy in the blue snowsuit is fat,

nearsighted and snivels

when the whip

snaps back

the snow.

His hands are fans:

bruised blue coral


in the corners

of his elastic mittens.

He’s mumbling to himself

stumbling in the slush

one foot in

one foot out.

At the pond

he stops,

cackles at the ducks

growing drunk in the ice.

He thinks

how big he will grow:

Big as the trucks

that haul the hogs away;

Big and bland

as these sloping plains

murmuring to themselves

their own private song.

So he slides along

the surface

of this frozen lake

taking stock – counting

the years ahead,

swallowing the days

one after another,


and planning

his own secret home

under acres of this Midwestern snow.

I’ve Seen It Again

For Denny Zeitlin

your absolute hand

raking the tin leaves

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