Paul Lieber

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Chemical Tendencies
poems by Paul Lieber
on sale now from
Tebot Bach Press





Maybe Pretty Woman
will shrink a tumor
so I turn up the TV
and she says
with eyes closed,
"we could dance to this"

If only.

"Look at my tongue,"
and she sticks out
an orange pitted coat
nickel thick and I'd lick

those side effects
if she'd ask me,
swallow the crust
while Roy sings

all I can do is dream you.

I pray to the common place
where breath and Roy's voice
begin, beg for the cure
while Roy plans
to squeeze Claudette

to death and my sister
is an hour past
her morphine pill,
but she's out so I lower

your baby doesn't love
you anymore,

as Roy's mouth opens
below sunglasses
while the body
hardly budges.

New York Quarterly, No. 62




A car swerves in front
of the Mercedes in front
of me and the Mercedes
stops and I stop
but the car behind
slams my rear and
I hit the Mercedes
in the rear and we
all pull to the side
of the 101, 3/4 mile to the 110
going south at 6:45 PM
to exchange our dates of
birth and other intimacies.
The guy in the Mercedes tells me
he is attracted to men and
women. I tell him 25 years ago
my wife was crushed in a head-on
and I could only identify
her legs. The woman behind us
speaks Mandarin but cries
in that universal sob and
the registration whispers that
the Ford is not hers. I uncork
a bottle of Milagro
and we drink to our entanglement,
to the 101 freeway,
somber sips for the 40,000
a year killed in collisions.
We pay homage to that deer
mowed down on the 405,
to the possums that blended
with the 90, to the mangled
licensed and unlicensed dogs,
to mutts and pedigrees,
cats, squirrels, coyotes
and the seagull that couldn’t
take flight fast enough.
The forty proof no longer burns
while the freeway ghosts
dance in the Santa Anna winds, then
relax on our dented hoods and fenders.
We hide the tequila and our mood
when the Highway Patrol arrives
in wool blended shirts
though the temperature is 98.
We answer questions, thank them
for clearing the battlefield
hug one another, deflate
our airbags and roll.

Patterson Literary Review, Issue 40





A blown up bass tunnels toward Sam
mimes something about the art
of swiveling, appears to invite him

for a swim, but Sam runs in his own pool
of impulses, zigzags up a corridor to
slithers of silver, knifing through a smaller

tank in schools, around and around,
not too different than the mobs of Fifth Ave.
with fashion pinching their skins. They

are called anchovies, I hear one mother
emphasize, as if a word is equal to a swirl
of spines. Fish from the sea of Cortez.

and the Bering Strait shine in multiple paisleys
and stripes, every which way. Sam shrieks
among the sharpest blues and yellow tails

with eyes set in the abstract pattern
that gather by a coral reef. A flatish fish,
a wrasse in lightest green gray polish

glides across. I'd like a shirt that tone
and a sweater like that woven eel thing
that entwines with sand. A worker

in black rubber and fins, bubbling under water,
waves. I tell Sam we came from a larger tank
and he almost stills for a flash as jellyfish

parachute into the frame.

Solo, No.6






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