Toby Gonzalez-Bend


W.M. Lobko

First week of school all my pens clench up.
Faulty by the boxful, snapped pencil points.
What few words there are are warped.
Chalk shrieks but works. The milk-black
board is a wall between me & someone
named OKBOL RM, who has scrawled
his mirrorish plea: KCUTS MA I. PLEH.
Someone should be the pen tester,
I’ll do it for minimum wage. Someone
should memorize everything everyone says.
As a prank my students sign their essays
in code so I have to sleuth out their identities.
The saddest I have ever been is being wrong.
In the meantime I summon invisible
hurricanes in the margins of their papers,
angry Braille I plan to send to Bic’s
cabal of admen. Writes the first time
every time!
I want to impress that joke
on their boardroom table using an awl.
What I have to say I have to say now:
first word best word, like Ginsberg said,
I hope he’s the incubus of their dreams
with his struck tambourine. Once he read Blake
to a tribal beat at a high school 20 years ago,
a woman I knew was there reported
that was her first encounter with madness.
Maybe. It might have been care, a desire
to chronicle some largeness inside, a thought
I didn’t have for years until that Saturday
that December when I called my father back,
learned a fact, & felt a tiny brass bearing
give in my chest. Black noise poured out.
What if our various desperations never escape?
Not everyone enjoys those rolls of typewriter paper
taped end-to-end together so there’s no stopping,
flying around like a storm of silk drapes
at the eye of which the prophet seizes.
At best we have jetstream swirls of white & blue
tissue shot from air cannons. We have
the big game tonight. Our school colors
become confetti mania, it’s like these firehoses
draw raw hue from a reservoir
I never knew was there. I thought we lived
in the desert & then this warm storm
whites the crowd out. Everyone is shouting
what a killer Homecoming, the clouds
in cut-up riot, & I know it’s only halftime
& nothing official is happening but
the team has to know that here
on the other side of this fluttering wall
we’re all making the same sign: It’s Good.


Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

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W. M. Lobko’s poems, interviews, & reviews have appeared in journals such as Slice, Boston Review, Seneca Review, The Literary Review, & Grist. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a Founding Editor of TUBA, a new review of poetry & art.

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