Bill Garten, 2017 Poet

All Plant Diet

A late September frost
unlocks the leaves

spring and summer’s ornaments
decorate the landscape foraging chipmunks

and squirrels where one tree grabs
a smaller tree ripping it out of the ground

the bigger tree gobbles the smaller one
like a true vegetarian heathen

in this forest of celebration
full of a conquering bark fiber

limb and root devouring this salad fresh
from a warm season.



Open Heart Thermometer

This nine-inch scar
a traveled highway of hope

runs vertically north & south
up & down my sternum

traveling straight
slightly purple

when my body
turns cold




With What’s Left

Escaping heat, teenagers swim, frolic in my pond.
Unafraid of snakes, snapping turtles, any amoebas
that could possibly slip into their ears

surprisingly left to roam their brains,
like a once parked hand
that now moves down a pair of jeans

or inches up a blouse.
It’s an extremely hot September

leaves unhook their summer
showing bright blue ribbons around trunk waists
where surveyors have marked the marshland’s perimeters

that are beyond the woods I own to the north.
There is always something trying
to invade what is not already taken.




It first started with a dragonfly
its translucent wings resting on your page
oar thoughts carried it across the winds of water

to my mind now a hummingbird darts in
& I think what a fight it would be
if it met a bat, fanged & ready

willing to take on the swift sword of hum.
The bat with its rabid radar, biting the blood
out of the calico captor of color.

There is a fear,
there is a beauty,
both sometimes too quick to snatch

a lot like my wife, jetting one place to another
never here at home



Cardiac Rehab

Strawberry vines like fishing lines dangle over my porch’s railings. Heart arteries the size of thick spaghetti. Hopefully molto al dente. And why do I write my “n” in cursive like the camel hump line that follows the spike in my EKG? Am I the treaded tombstone the cardiologist does not want to see along the hieroglyphics of the line? Incestuous metaphors. Trophy attempts at trying to win one more race for the sake of the concrete image finish line.

Trouble in cardiac rehab when I sprint on the elliptical the nurse gets upset. If you end up passing out there is too much paperwork for me to fill out.

I think about the gray gravel ground in asphalt, looking like seashells, not like this treadmill’s black mat moving and revolving. There are no car or truck oil spills here. Bruises along the road’s skin, its thighs of concrete in one part of our neighborhood, arms of asphalt in other parts and then there are these rusty nail stains of acorns smashed on the surface. Something dragged out of them like a comet’s tail, chipmunk in color, as if the acorn was going somewhere, was going to grow in the hard surface.

Blood on my lip reminds me how hard I have tried to find love. The rattling in my throat when I try to sleep sounds like the beginnings of someone about to snore or how one has an asthma attack.

This pain in my left bicep, the first and sometimes last signal that ischemia lives in the four rooms of my heart, secretly doing things behind their locked doors, each valve letting guests of oxygen and blood enter without a password or key. Only after the secret knock are they let in so they can exit moments later, the murmur of some dialogue that something besides pain still runs and flows – that my neck is the trunk of my brain’s tree with its tentacles swimming in the wind of water – as night lynches the sun, hanging my dangling darkness.


Bill has published poetry in Rattle, Interim, Asheville Poetry Review, California State Poetry Quarterly, Portland Review, Wisconsin Review, Antietam Review, The Comstock Review, The Chaffey Review, Hawaii Review, Portland Review, Poet Lore and others. He is a graduate student in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Ashland University. He also has been anthologized in Wild Sweet Notes, And Now The Magpie and What The Mountains Yield.

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