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John Horváth Jr. writes from "inside the sinner" where events are experienced, history becomes, and memory shields. His poems -- focused on the strange and stranger among us -- have appeared in both online and print magazines. He also edits PoetryRepairShop.

Dark Planet is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments, please contact her at lusnyde@cyberus.ca.

All materials copyright 1996-1999 by their respective creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).


by John Horváth Jr.

It was as far as anyone could go, where
we went further than we could dream.
No one knew this Barstow or if he was a man.
The company bought slag from the steel mills
and crushed the slag into cinders. In Whiting,
Indiana, there is a place where tons of slag and
cinders wait some unknown purpose, and we there
called that mounded place "the moon"
and I was the first man on the moon --
or so I believed as each before me himself had believed.

Along 129th, a chuckholed street that stretched the nerves
of pockmarked boys first time outing with someone-else's
silly little sister, across from widescreen doublefeatured
Outdoor 41 theater with its bias against Nash Rambler wagons
whose backseats folded into beds, at Barstow's
she and I mouthed the hollywood dialog we believed in
on a moonscape of slaghilled majesty under a red moon
with a first bud I kept between my thighs the terror
of childhood touching the man in me swollen beyond
the banks of my flesh. And she asked whether I loved her,
could love her after, did now love and would forever--
her! like in the movie whose hands and lips had led here,
like James Dean loved speed or Autry loved his horse--
until the credits rolled I would say a sly "of course."
In that place of Yes who hadn't loved that role of "yes,
I love you" in the part of earth I called home and added
"like a neighbor"; so very little could then satisfy and
make my eyes widen like at Christmas a gift receiver
says I will cherish the moment but the gift will forget
or a child who rips into the gaudy package forgets
so soon the bright gift but always having received
remembers the package and the joy of destruction
Yes, I do. For the reception of joy and the guilt thereafter.
When a same moon hangs above rotgut bars I'll swagger
into and I say to the sissified bartender "gimme the same"
it's not a drink that I'll be after. It's memory of your
quick gift and your sigh that go down real smooth--
not hot burning whiskey, not the ones who came after,
nor the ripened stem caressed, nor the red wine of youth
but I myself so vulnerable sure I could again and again
as if the celluloid film never fades: "Gimme another!"
To a similar woman I might now ask whether there's love
for the first time loss, and is it that which feeds the snake
to involuntary majesty, or whether the nub rub stub
has a kind of selflove all its own and wants to be petted
as it had been down the street from the moon on the front
porch of another I sometimes forget
who drank with me grandfather's brew
and I am convinced again it is a potion,
a magic in the juices of a pink place between thighs
more potent the younger that gives us all our parts,
like a glue in the bloodstream you never wash off,
the jumping soundtrack on the edge of the film,
the sprockets and sprocket holes that must meet.
Life since is encountering moments of terror,
the women who stood in Chicago against streetposts
or the slippery redlights of Calumet encounters
precursor to evenings in taverns foreign and sleazy
for boys in the manhood of armor on short leave
with a wallet of money and government issue
protection against being captured, for propriety
or some far-away thought kingdom where god
keeps a clipboard full of the notches we carve
wedlocked or out. And it is always someone-else's
silly little sister scratching her ass on the cinders.

Will I tell it among the tongues of boys gathered at drive-ins
their engines revving loud boasts of conquests to come,
craving for numbers that all such share, shall I say that I had
known joy as much as terror of parents who terrified others
repentant for crimes against someone-else's little sisters
whose white panties serve memory as spirits of dim times --
Yes, every city, every farm has its place is all I say and time
where and when the inches of boyhood are stretched
either by hand or by lip into manhood full of consent
and regret. And I as much regret sisters I hadn't as had
and I regret the moment's hesitation, seeming rejection,
the sleep incurred and lost through love and the moon
round as a youngbud cheek unhinged in the sky. I must regret
the changing of reels and the burning of film. Oh Yes, I regret
that red drops from the moon replenish the earth and the slag
stained with the time of change along 129th Street at midnight
now smothers the crabgrass alongside some highschool track
and I regret that there could have been Black girls from Gary,
Harbor girl Latinas to share such a night with me or another
some time ago at Barstow but our moments are cinders spread
on some highway long ago to break up wintry ice, spread
on some track to build up the traction, or over a sidewalk
to keep old legs from going out and I cannot remember
the color of her face or her name or the time speeding
from boy into man. If ever while passing I look at my feet
and there are the red stains well then it's only a notch
nothing more, like the moment in Denton on leave from
the business of war with the stranger against a fence,
or it's the passing through Denver after the war
with someone-else's still very young sister
one or the other, a notch then another.

Daughters, come away from the slaghills, a bed is awaiting,
the children must hurry from stems to their nesting.