Three Poems | Granta

Three Poems

Eric Amling

‘They have friends everywhere / They have the iffy look of people that are free.’ Three poems by Eric Amling



I finished reading all the novellas set in orphanages.
In a drop ceiling environment, no longer coerced by a piano’s black keys.
There were watercolors of monuments in proud family sunrooms.
In perfect bank robbing weather, where people sat thirsty and insured.
Messages of rebellion were at a constant but I was past rebellion—I had quit.
I had driven through these hamlets one by one in a digital spy mobile.
Toward dashboards of sky the color of sports drink.
Passed black sun-hot mailboxes.
The brush fires that moved like mechanical bull.
Passed objects of value in faraway places.
And value, we know, needs beholders, to beholden.
To behold their own inheritance of centuries, their poorly drawn jagged borders.
Where the sun pushes the shadows out of us.
Out of the stones that clung a thousand years to the perverted mesas
Balancing their circuitry of thermal waves.
Out of the main streets immortalized on kitchen clocks.
Where night was of two identical possibilities.
For those to memorialize the fruits of their patriotism.
Those that thought we’d be soft footing on the surface of the moon by now.
Here are some of those people, they’re here for the dry heat.
And then here comes me, a passionate idiot, new in town.







When I hear the opening sequence of Careless Whisper, it’s a tantric experience

I think about those I’ve hurt and those I’ve satisfied

It isn’t about the kind of music; it is the music that I want to restrain me

From distraction long enough to listen the way we are meant to listen

In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins, a song that introduced viewers of Miami Vice

To the five o’clock shadow, and the penchant to drive and reflect on one’s life

With platitudes that look good in headlights

To strive for a plane of easy listening

To do the things that sound impressive

I can’t believe we’re here tonight

In an era where sensationalism is the new nationalism

Where it’s a delight to panic with late-night country western

Knowing Fist City has the cadence to inspire the canned laughter

Needed to stave off my treasonous impressions

Under different circumstances I’d be humming a better tune

Something to make me feel like a blooming rose on a decaying bush

But there is only so much talk and there are countless things to listen to

Everybody’s Talkin’, Strawberry Letter 23, Wild Horses, Smooth Operator

You couldn’t pump that much heaven into a gray city

Eggplant, scallion, ginger, turmeric,

Purchased to an instrumental version of Take My Breath Away

I don’t have the stomach for Reelin’ in the Years

A song that gives the illusion of the longest evening trapped in a chair

I’d like to get my kumuppins to anything by Link Wray

Some spas utilize thunderstorms, just enough to spook the wildlife in you

There were times with Japanese rock n’ roll driving past New England buffalo

The bar & grill Casio credos meant to lift the limp and addled

Civilian’s Us vs Them carpe diem

The minor chord kids, the buttery tear inducers, video poker salsa

Sometimes I need the free of excitement mood music

That saved many soldiers with PTSD after WWII

Music so translucent it put you in a place with no rewards, no competition

Of course there is romance; Dorothy Ashby’s Afro-Harping while driving 90mph

Whispering to your passenger

Of course there are the meat and potato boot stompers

A large percentage of assholes which seem drawn to Sinatra’s My Way

I once shushed a candle, in the lowly way, cursing every one of you

Is that so wrong – a delicate declaration of war?

I watched the inaugural parade with only the audio of wind

passing through a press box

As if the world was so soft spoken we’d been ignoring it for centuries

With its methane and waves, blue jays screaming in the rain,

wind from the darkest holes







It’s been said life is a crime
I’ve been told civility is a chore

Every year, the warmer weather brings bodies
To the surface of New York’s rivers and harbors

In the mornings, I wait to see if a figure will greet me
Through the shower mist, their fingers pruned like mine

Not from pressing the steamy mirror
To draw a phallus under a palm tree, as is my compulsion

A gesture that could be rated for its “Momentary Sensuality”
Or, “Ribald Humor”

Of course this isn’t the movies
This isn’t about movies, this isn’t about ratings

This is an extension of athletics
In a world of victor and baseless fame

One that leaves us in need of a second set of hands
Wringing continually in despair

Though legends are sometimes honored with a cult
The strange and saintly retain a biology

They have friends everywhere
They have the iffy look of people that are free

The twist is god is spreading rumors about us
About our drugs and murder, our murderous sex drugs

Our bare bottom pranks, perverse brooding,
Our kids in jeopardy, our vampire violence

I’m subject to this criminal life, this realm
Of aliens and demons, ostensibly masculine Draconian rule

Each night putting on dark gloves, a famous undercover
A black balloon, a banana going bad in a bag


Photograph ©enki22, Phil Collins casette

Eric Amling

Eric Amling is the author of From the Author's Private Collection (Birds, LLC 2015) as well as chapbooks published by If a Leaf Falls Press and The Song Cave. He is an editor at After Hours Editions.

More about the author →