Mudlark Flash No. 117 (2017)

Poems by Ken Haas

Ode to Converts

My father tried to tell me about the torchlights
in Odessa, the sword points in Seville,
and their modern adaptations. Even now
the cross lighter on the neck than the star.
Still, I colored you traitors,
in your silk top hats and Siberian minks,
come to pray with us just once a year,

come to share a penitence for small abominations,
come to beg with us for more time, in which
to lock the whimpering hound beneath the sink again,
run the cyclist off the road again,
kick the beggar’s dollar to the grate again,

come for forgiveness not whispered in a booth,
come for your name on a mother’s lips again,
come for a night, for a mate, for an out,
in case it ever gets that bad again,
in case it’s ever about blood again,
in case it ever happens in this land.

The splendid dead of you coming as well,
leaving at the gate your anxious laurels.
Paul your epistles, Theodora your crown,
Mendelssohn and Mahler your feted scores,
Reuter your news, Cori and Pasternak your Swedish prizes,
Cresques your Catalan maps, Ferrús your Catalan rhymes.
Disraeli your speeches and desert canal.

This faith is a sleepwalk among beds that are burning,
this fear is a habit that hunts down all strays. I say,
Come all you hedgers and straddlers,
this is the port that can always be sailed to,
I can’t do this without you, see you next year.

The Alternate Merge

is what separates us from the beasts
          cracks the Jersey hackie
as we grind like chipped gear teeth
          toward the steel cervix
of the George Washington Bridge.

          He waves in a puce-haired coed
with labret, who crosses herself
          after flipping him off,
then noses out a flouncing Lincoln
          with smoke greasing every seam,
lets “Life’s a bitch and so am I” slip past
          on the bumper of a Teaneck housewife,
cuts no slack for the Civic
          whose dashboard saint’s
getting its ears boxed by pink foam dice.

          All interleaved with his own jagged rant:
He’s still pissed about the way Big Pussy died,
          caught his wife last May
snorting coke off some stockbroker’s belly,
          his youngest has migraines,
a broken nose and a gun, he likes
          this one’s breasts and that one’s hat,
says don’t the sun’s billion H-bombs
          make a heaven here on earth.

But that’s it.
          Not one more let in.
Last justice doled as the toll gets paid.
          Then we’re all in a line
above Henry Hudson’s river,
          the Mohawk and Hoosic still in its blood,
the saw-toothed spires still at its side,
          the old oyster island,
where throngs fed the dream to gagging,
          still on the tip of its tongue.

Ken Haas lives in San Francisco where he is a partner in a healthcare venture capital firm and has created, and continues to sponsor, a weekly poetry writing program at UCSF Children’s Hospital which employs facilitators from California Poets in the Schools. His poems have been published widely in the magazines and anthologized in The Place that Inhabits Us (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010) and the Marin Poetry Center Anthology (2012 and 2013). He has been an active participant in the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. You can find out more about him at

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