Featured Poem 6/9/08

illustration by blacksheepstudios


the truth: his heart was scarred
as sure as the city was chartreuse
forty years and not a word arrived
dorothy’s name, never scrawled
never a letter, he wondered if she’d died
the city’s leader in hide
the scarecrow in the library
resurrecting every volume that lies buried

first the wizard’s library was crafted from red marble
then the green city was built up with dark materials
emeralds over soil, stones over emerald
stones under metal, and above the metal:
fragile wood rafters: the heights
the tall city swayed and creaked with the wind
the emerald glow barely reached that high
the emperor’s logo, everywhere—an old photo of toto
originally owned though by the tinman
in a grim stance, gun holstered
ready to go postal

roaming shrouded in consignments
everywhere, the bloody homeless
sugar and spice addicts
in the heights at night
gun fights happen
savior gone, the emerald city grew up
but low, downtown
rotund citizens in pinstripes handle their gold

high above the market square
non-citizens exchange sharp glares
there’s a thinness to the air
wind sharp cold
he lives in a loft on machinery row
his chest is a caged kennel
a range of metals
charcoals burning spice to ash
filled with flames
when the coals shine and he breathes hard
steam releases seeping from his steel scars
long thin fingers gripping a hand cannon
that kicks harder than tin cans
the tinman thumbs slugs into revolver chambers
the barrel of a problem solver
it wants to spit but he
covers its mouth
slipping legs off their bodies
when his knuckle cracks
the shots laugh loud
limbs pop off and drop down

now he’s found
cloudy jazz abounds
from his stomach
metal lips buzzing
he tips cold breath down the front funnel of his trumpet
a one-winged monkey pumping the drum
a singer humming a conversation
something about notes hovering through smoke at the ruby slipper
backstage is the bar, groupies tend to liquor and
spice ash for local unknown stars

a red light district
a mixture of jazz, spice drugs, and dance clubs
the tinman lives above the ruby slipper
with his drummer who types fast on an ol’ fashioned underwood
with a precision understood to all needing lettering services
if they wanna hire some murdering
clients stop in on the tinman
they hand him bags of spice ash and coin sterling
his reply is usually, “certainly”

but now
he’s been found
silver black imperials abound
against the iron man
he locks on targets with a dead bearing
he’s death’s narrator
left their heads hanging
as a red herring

he speaks: “the emperor is a charlatan!”
the tinman like a gardener
uproots heads and limbs then
lets their faucets run
to water the ground
it trickles down
to mottle those close to the crown
sanguine hail
the thin killer prevails
it’s finally raining red over the green market square

so they marched 700 guards with pikes, nets, and bear trapping snares
they caught up with him
when they were done with him
the mob snatch his heart and carted it off in a bucket
just like the others who bump into the emerald city’s justice
kicked and bent like driftwood
nothing left but a can
the tinman’s hand went limp and
his body shifted into the mist like sand

—Robert Ryan

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