3 Poems by John Mortara

how many how much

how many times must i lock eyes with a horse locked
into a trailer on this thunderstorm of a highway.
the flashing lights in the sky hurt us both.
i speed / hug the turns
either want to be home or want to be dead
there is no in between / no distinguishable difference
but it must be now. i would launch my car off the tappan zee
and into the hudson if the river meant home.
if it meant drowning – well, let either be immediate
and all that matters.
how many times will you point to my scabs
in photographs / call them out in my voice / in my crater-
eyes / how many times will i ask how many / how much
tell me / tell me how many times
must i be a terrified little rabbit
trapped inside of herself / how many
hands must run soft over her ears
before she won’t expect one of them
to go for her neck


“Fisheye Baby 110” image by Flickr user Kevin Dooley

your whole heart is a forest

fit with a deep floor of fallen leaves
and there are children trudging through those leaves

they cheer their voices against your wild
they toss stones at your muddy streams

i can see how those children have grown lost or too far from home
how the dark of winter creeps over their shoulders

how if only you would bend your trees just a little
open some room for the remaining sun to guide them back

i could know they found their way just before the snow
before you give your whole heart up to the


“Tree Carved Heart” image by Flickr user Lynda Giddens


this snapshot of wet sand beneath
your cold feet. the ocean gloom
on all sides of you. that fake
surprise at her camera. those crossed
arms and your slouch towards the car.
when did you become too old for running?
when did it happen exactly?
try to remember that day folded in your years
when you started walking to the waves
slow and quiet. do you remember
when you last dove? when the skin of your shoulders
was golden? now your neck is red from the heavy
hammer of hot shower water. your face
dead-white from an entire year
pressed against you. that hotel smell
of chlorine and candy still lodged
in your nostrils. the empty beach still waits
in your window. if only you’d remember
how your hands used to glow like the sun
used to glow. remember how you would run
to the water.

johnmortarajohn mortara is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which flightless animals “rain” from the sky. such occurrences have been reported throughout history. one possible explanation is that strong winds traveling over water can sometimes pick up creatures such as fish or frogs and carry them for several miles. john mortara operates voicemailpoems.org from Boston, MA and needs to tell you that the Swedish version of “it’s raining cats and dogs” is “det regnar smådjävlar” or, “it is raining little devils.” john’s new poetry collection some planet is now available through YesYes Books. more at: johnmortara.com