Steve Abbott  ~  Poet & Writer


Stardust in Franklin Park

If there is, somewhere on an invisible tether,

a world other than this spinning rock,

the unimagined inverse of whatever we think

we know, it will hum a tune that defines

where and how early-afternoon wind whirls

the fluid leaves of Stardust, shaped as only

a saxophone can, into a soccer ball’s dart

past a goalie’s hands into the whoops of the winners,

multicolored in April jerseys and scattered

in the grass like marbles on blacktop, where the slap

of sneakers offers a percussive prelude to

the chain-link chink of basketball dropping, all net,

at the end of an arc created by a lean body rising

for a jump shot that draws its own orbit in a universe

where the shooter will become a lawyer and a less guilty

boy will be shot, though neither can imagine this now,

and the notes created by the golden horn rebound

off the greenhouse glass, its crystalline shimmer

a vertical lake in the park’s expanse, ripples

broken by the suggestion of primordial plants

in the rain forest room, separated from the cool day

and its multiple scenarios by the essence of clarity—

our inability to see where it all begins, how it ends.

From Why Not Be Here Now?

11thour Press, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Steve Abbott


I understand so little I rejoice

In simple things—the shushing brush of cars

On Hudson Street, or purple thistles splashed

Amid the broken glass that sprinkles stars

Along the alley fence. The unturned dirt

Releases humid dreams where ferns will sprout,

Unfurling lacy flags of green against

The latticed edge of porch’s peeling paint.

I like the way the wood feels when I sit

Alone on weathered steps of pine, the talk

Of footsteps calling quiet ghosts to rise

From sidewalks wishful for a slash of chalk.

The smallest of these details leaves me where

I started—in my noticing, a prayer.

From Why Not Be Here Now?

11thour Press, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Steve Abbott

The Torturer’s Daughter

When he gets home, he’s taken off the gloves. Inside

them is a softness her hair releases in his hands, and after

her bath he slowly combs the strands matted to her neck.

The smooth strokes are whispers into another place, into

the face of a blindfolded form strapped to a chair, jaundiced

light refusing to brighten the chill smeared on the walls.

He bounces her on his knee and sings an old folk song,

a mountain tune she hums quietly to herself, twisting

her doll into a dance. His fingers clench and relax

as the melody brings into focus the room where

they call a scream the song, a spasm of shrieks

the chorus, where splintered arias invoke passive gods

with weeping that fills the gaps between questions.

Slipping from his lap, the girl takes the comb, tugs it

through the yarn hair, still learning pressure and

release, how to measure each pass of plastic teeth

so the doll isn’t torn beyond repair. She cradles

the cloth form as he tucks her in bed and whispers

love until she’s so still he can’t tell if she’s breathing.

In the morning, after potatoes and eggs, he kisses

her, opening the door to a yellow courtyard and 

what he does to hold their shared world in place.

From A Green Line Between Green Fields

Kattywompus Press, 2018

Copyright © 2018 Steve Abbott

                                                                                                                                                Photo by Maguerite Molk

Title Pending Translation

                                    graffiti near the Railway Museum 

It is the language of desperation, not unusual in

this environment, and common where boundaries

harden and worlds of forge and order collide with

voicelessness, its frustration and compressed fury.

This is not mere speech but a canvas

of snarls where something diminished emerges

into light on underpasses, box cars, aging

warehouses, your grandmother’s garage.

Sometimes the words are inflated, letters

puffed up like balloons in a summer circus.  

There’s a timelessness to this instinct,

a history of hands scratching and painting

alleys, the untended walls of tunnel and city.

These soundless syllables may not even be words.

This is not a statement in the native tongue.

It rises in the hiss of spray and the solitary

stains that punctuate fingertips, a chemical

mist of pigment that settles into sign, symbol. 

Imagine its nameless speakers weeping 

their wishful swipes at immortality.

This is the dialect of night. It defies

translation and vernacular assumptions.

It wants to make its mark, something more

than a red or black swish accented by a jagged

slice of haste. We may never understand

the swoop and stroke of colors that fill this cave

wall of despair, a sunset raging against the dark.  

Note how already silent weeds and scrub trees

are erasing from every surface the futile gestures

trying to that prove someone is, or was, here.

From A Language the Image Speaks: Poems in response to visual art

11thour Press, 2019

Copyright © 2019 Steve Abbott

Poste Lake

It was where he went to listen.

He’d cross the distance between rails,

consider the unerring perspective of tracks.

How, either way, the world narrowed.

Small houses beyond the lake were

unframed watercolors hung in a room

with no ceiling but the shifting sky.

Their angles and shadows were voices

rising and falling, a type of conjecture

summoning another form of life.

When he settled at the shore, the deep

grass shook him until he was still.

He didn’t know he was being emptied,

filled with a solitude that spoke.

The language of the place was not yet his—

waterfowl he could not name, seams

of light wavering on the other side,

how much he could hear even when

locomotives passed and another life

approached without rumble or headlight.

From the shade he began swimming

up through the story of an inland sea

that left millions of years in stones

along the tracks, shells of small creatures

a page of footprints his fingers traced.

These were small pieces of the long time

everything requires, and it was his place

for a time, where he absorbed what it took 

to be unmoving, then to rise and walk

into the clamor of hard streets beyond

rail bed’s gravel and tie, parallel lines

shifting with the crunch of each step.

From A Green Line Between Green Fields

Kattywompus Press, 2018

Copyright © 2018 Steve Abbott

All poems Copyright © Steve Abbott.

Permission to reprint or use in any form must be obtained in writing from author.

spray paint