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Josiah Bancroft
Poems

About the Poet
Josiah Bancroft’s poetry has been published in the Cimarron Review, the Cincinnati Review, Gulf Coast, the Pinch, Natural Bridge, Rattle, Passages North, Slice Magazine, The American Literary Review, Third Coast, and Bomb Magazine: Word Choice, among others.

He teaches at Cecil College in Maryland and resides in Wilmington, Delaware. Other examples of his work can be found at www.josiahmedia.com.


Fall 2012 Poems »
Bath Time

Turn me back into a fish.
It’s too late for reanimation,
for nerve ends and love tics.
My skin, soft, uncooked,
excited as wetted yeast,
as hungry, does soon remind me
that mine is the body
lightning made, just before
the waking, brainless monster
leapt to his iron feet and ran
for the village, already ablaze.

~

False Alarm

Tonight, the neighborhood sobs.
We each catch the infant’s wrack

inside our whispering dish, yearning
to claim this heartbreak as our own.

But the infant bawls for all of us
and not for any one. A warm hand

is laid upon her heaving back,
on everyone sharing the alarm.

Calm comes like a drop in air pressure,
and the fists in our chests relax.

We fall asleep together
as if released by a hypnotist’s snap.

~

Pageant of the Savaged

The dark has repossessed
the home of the patriarch.
He owns a few feet of weak
lamp light, three corners

of a desk and the most ancient
of his ancestors framed
and ordered upon the wall.

The faces of the women, his lost
cousins and aunts, are taut
as the salt-dissolved figureheads
of warships. They stare at their men

who straightly gaze, slit-eyed
with stoic rage, each face drooped
with piety, the urge to worship

at the foot of a bed. Among
the frames hangs his boyhood face,
smiling lewdly. In their company,
his portrait seems a tourist.

How can he compete with their
poise or their elegant ruin?
His family’s Christmas photograph

is already ripe for ridicule.
Those sweaters! As lovely as they tried
to seem, every hair pasted flat,
every crease precisely cut,

they appear insincere in their silver frame
and ugly in their ease. Yet,
at the time, he’d never felt so pretty.

~

The Crossing Guard

I’m holy Saint George standing in the cross
of a road run all day by dragons. Already
these lizards have eaten a person or two,
are hard, road-blind, dumb as an unwound clock.

I carry a drawn orange baton, lead plug
in the end, and I have found a rap on the nose
quiets the gunning pretty quick. Though

it leaves a dent, which is how dragons recall
they aren’t alone and the world is not small.
Before bed they look over their body to see
which scales are cracked or missing, and say,

shit, oh right, that’s Saint George’s reward
for hauling ass through a school crossing.
I believe children are the future, as people say.

After being schooled full of the future all day,
they pop out, little time-travelers, their bodies
holding a place in the present like a stoplight,
while their eyes carry on down the street of time,

dashing to the end of the dream. Some, I can tell,
get lost and don’t make it back, roll on ever
and ever, a needle skipping at the end of a record.

Such children will always be children. But now
wrapped in blue, grey and pink coats, they seem
almost edible. I stand my ground when they flurry
and think the future can not be empty. Children

are living there, scared in the dark theater that plays
no feature. All around them they must hear fire
heaving, the ignorant clatter of beaten armor.

They’re calling out to me: come forward,
Saint George, the dragons have swallowed us.
I’m coming, though slow. I am coming.

~

~ Josiah Bancroft
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