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Eric Helms holds degrees from Furman University and Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Some of his work can be found at can be found in the Asheville Poetry Review, key_hole, Prelude, Diagram, MadHat Lit, Souvenir, American Athenaeum, and Blunderbuss.

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Helms and I

It is Helms, die anderen Helme, that things happen to.
I schlepp through Boca Raton–perhaps mechanically;
like a rat–then freeze to peek at the sun; rumor of Helms
arrives by mail, or I spot his title on some drifting list of
derelicts and [sic] undependables. My own appetence,
hunger, appetite (why should we call it lust?) gallops to-
wards deserts of the West, shabby ruins, trophies full of
holes, the maps of beggars, the scrapped papers of my
lost and doomed forebears who have already been de-
livered to the perverse asperity of winter’s sun. The other
Helms shares my weaknesses, but in a proud, overweening
way that alters their bitten roots, gnawed realities, torn souls
into the trappings of a pantomimist, soubrette, or barnstormer.
While I grant that Helms has written a fine sum of sturdy
pages, those pages will not redeem me, perhaps because
the sterling in them no...

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The Mask

1. This mask is an old one.
2. The fatalities of its essence are not to be disencumbered
from certain casualties with regard to the faces it buries.
3. The faces–whether of pope, king, insolvent, beggar–become
dense, despondent, opaque… complex; a miserable sepia screen
of either real or ostensible anguish.
4. A real or ostensible anguish for which the bearer(s) of the mask
turn (through their hapless speech, by their countless acts, which
will not be mentioned here) into babbling infants.
5. Right now, as this ink dries, I rock in my cradle, burned by fever,
exposed to the moon; a moribund, senseless hoodlum.
6. Yes!–I lie on my back, the food of elephants.

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When Death Said Hello

“Was that life?”–I wanted to say to Death,
but Death had fallen down as one dead

and long remained like one dead on depar-
ture’s shore. For several days, the waves

crashed over, the lightning battered Death’s
serpentine bones. On the eighth day

the brown recluse of his suitcase washed ashore.
As if alive, trembling deeply with desperate sighs

that longed to be freed, I took Death’s scythe
and, with one fortuitous stroke, broke open

the lock. Inside, beneath layers of dust, of thorns,
lay Death’s whistle, Death’s hourglass. The first

Apple that the first worm had gnawed through
and then throughout Eden for Death to be born.

I stole a bite and with such bite Death’s whistle
screeched, his hourglass spilled broken; its grains

of time (sprouting legs) stretched into tarantulas
and, further, crawled up my skin, entered my mouth.

Like a child, I put on Death’s pants...

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Donald Trump (after Emily Dickinson’s A narrow Fellow in the Grass)

A fat man in the White House
Always lies; day and night.
You may have heard him. (Blowing snot.)
Maskless and sick, his notice sudden drips

As his speech divides like dynamite.
Yeah, during debate, his spotted dick seen–
Still he dreams of the Nobel Prize, then dribbles farther
On your Twitter Feed–like a Slug ‘til Kingdom cums.

Want more?–he counts on rednecks dressed in sheets,
Whores to shuck his corn.
Yes, he cums like a spoiled child with venereal disease–

As orange as the sun! For Nirvana, he injects bleach
Then posts to his apologists about its benefits like Vitamin C.
O Say Cannot You See!–he’s up before dawn, reading Mein Kampf

Then it’s back to Air Force-1 to give another rally, another speech:
Let’s Make America Dumb!–4 More Years, Let’s Make America Dumb!

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A Dialog About a Dialog

Rapt in wrangling(s) with regard to our dispute on immortality,
we had borrowed my neighbor’s skiff and had rowed out to
the heart of the lake without a thought for the day, which
had lost all its light and, for that matter, in the dark, we could
not see the joyful scowls, which we had, unbeknownst, skew-
ed to each other’s faces. With great fervor that went beyond
the heated passions of excitement, Dante Alighieri’s voice said
more than thrice that the soul was evergreen, phoenix-like, sem
piternal. What’s more, he had persuaded me that the debt and
trial of the body is, in-toto, nihil ad rem, extraneous and wide
of the point, and that at the nadir of one’s respective rope, when
one respectively passes from earthly frame … into the supernal,
this given event is most trivial, trite, as valueless as breathing is
to a newborn. I was fiddling with Dante’s pocketknife...

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Chapter IV from The Emperor’s Dilemma

It was high time. The wind blew–inexhaustibly. In all directions. Directly then indirectly from the wild, unbound, vatic pages of a sorcerer’s spell.
The great emperor’s front door lay next to his neighbor’s cow, caught in
a tree. Not amazed. Inside his roofless doublewide. The great emperor
merely shrugged, consumed as he was by magnificent fevers or magic, scanning out on his Kingdom of Once, which–without equivocation–mostly conceded for an evacuated trailer park. Chained to the rusty anchor of thought, he sank ever so downward, according to the capsized artifacts, ruined antiques, forgotten treasures of his memory; how like in Borges’ tenebrous fictions, he had died in the third chapter but found by the fourth himself very much alive and as foolhardy as his most gallant knights, squinting like a frenzied, almost fanatical, bat into the calm of the Hurricane’s bloody eye–just...

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My revered friend and esteemed colleague of ten years: a brightly decorated commander from the Military Council of Special Joint Affairs,
a quite majestic, numinous branch, was wearing his prized plastic beige-to- aubergine sombrero, which like a character out of BOND he’d won in a game of Dominoes last evening while drinking some Kool-Aid at a black
charity event for classified operators. The week before he’d hijacked a
Black Hawk off Bragg as part of something like a training exercise and,
after a couple unannounced, swoops, whips, goofy spins, masculine gestures, & 2.5 gang signs over Camp McCall’s turntable, was hit by
a brick launched out of a rocket-propelled grenade. Two days later
the mother fucker shows up wearing the wig of General O.G. Washington, having crashed landed into my kid’s tree house, at which point he decides he’s General Patton, proceeding to torch the...

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FAMOUS POET after Ted Hughes

The day my book of poems set to print, the entire world
bought a red pack of Marlboros or put on their favorite
black lipstick. Some might have kissed their wives.
Then climbed into a hole without the dog, a couple
machines, a few wheelbarrows of matchbooks, sardines,

toilet paper.

Workers were striking from everywhere. Out of a job from a year ago,
I just continued to bang my hammer. The most compromised spread
widely about the streets. Then deleted themselves while most traffic
sped out from Mother Earth. And so we sat out on the stoop and licked
the rain in the gutter and thought of the color of Wednesday and of a life less confusing than from where we slept with our salty, quiet pillows,
waiting for this silent red spring. I wept into all of October and soaked.

Meanwhile, the yellow submarine did not emerge, the shepherd & his pie sat coolly like two widowed rats off...

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Alm to the Beekeeper

Like Batman singing along to some gospel.
But without the cape or Alfred, little Bruce
sat down like a hero at the children’s table
and poured some cold cereal and a tall glass
of bourbon through a straw then began to iron
a dead rose, waiting for his special red phone
to blow up. Like the last time, it was the Penguin
wanting to jokingly end his life through a game
of hopscotch or basketball. The stakes had never
been so high; either yay you won, you won, you won
or death by owl. Batman slapped himself silly
on the back with an eel and began to chuckle
like Santa Claus a little as he lit a Camel Cigarette
and said ‘moist little jackass. cum-bag glitch. etc… .
before calling Alfred. But Alfred had drunk a 6-pack of
Corona and was so far gone you could go ahead and toss
him in the W.A.S.T.E. basket along with Mucho Maas.
I handed Batman my umbrella and said, ‘So!–have...

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Much that is sad, hurt, beautiful must be disregarded
like the gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace be-
ginning at the end of our sentences, which out of the
tearful coliseum beg repeating in the slaveful climate
that fostered them. Meanwhile, the town does not
exist for the drowned woman. But the fence makes it
our own. At the beginning of March. I waited like a
broken diving board, butterfly and overall kick-drum
target as their sons grew suicidally beautiful and galloped
terribly, alone and desperate as sour pumpkins in the
patch with the train-rustling of stadium coils and thunder
in the bushes, high above the city where, in fact, the sand-
spur promise of learning is quite simply an objective de-
lusion solid with reality: masks and faces for your next carnival

plus plenty of those formal facts and kisses; notwithstanding
heroic acts of the penguin and pawn...

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