John Hoppenthaler


“She likes the big Bambú!” He’s grunting & singing 

off-key like an idiot frat boy, shit-eating grin
on his arrogant George Walker Bush-looking face,
& Oh, I do, I really do, but not the over-sized

shroud of cigarette paper into which he’s rolling
inferior weed & not what he was getting at
with the double entendre, the largely
exaggerated dong lurking nearby, slinking around

there inside his baggy, relaxed-fit shorts.
I’ve remembered my grandparents’ backyard, green
stand of bamboo, tropical playground on the cesspool
side of their property. I haven’t thought of it for years,

how suburban New York became the jungle,
how magical flutes might be fashioned on the spot
by my bachelor uncle. How blowguns, how wind
chimes, long sunfish poles & walking sticks, & how

has it all come to this: barely stoned on shitty pot,
& the idiot butcher of Iraq chanting victory songs
& smirking, & about to fill my every hole with reeds?
Bamboo rustled like Serengeti grasses in the wind.

The skeletal clatter & mourn of my lonely uncle’s
hollow chimes spooked the drowsy air. Always
at dusk, a feral cat would come, & I’d pretend that cat
was a lion. I’d pretend he was wild & came only for me.

John Hoppenthaler’s previous books of poetry are Lives of Water (2003), Anticipate the Coming Reservoir (2008), and Domestic Garden (forthcoming, 2015), all with Carnegie Mellon University Press. With Kazim Ali, he has co-edited a volume of essays on the poetry of Jean Valentine, This-World Company. For the cultural journal Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, he edits “A Poetry Congeries.” He is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at East Carolina University.