Charlie's book, How the Boy Might See It, was published in a revised and expanded edition by Jane's Boy Press in October 2015. Click here to order directly from our distributor.
Charlie Bondhus’ second poetry collection, All the Heat We Could Carry, was the winner of the 2014 Thom Gunn Award. Other awards include The Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and the BrickhouseBooks Stonewall Competition. He serves as the poetry editor for The Good Men Project and teaches English and Creative Writing at Raritan Valley Community College. He is currently at work on his third full-length poetry collection.
New York School
The boy whimpers through a rolled
sock, three laser-printed
photos of twentyish Frank O’Hara stuck
over his bed—bad quality,
crinkled edges; he looks impish
in one, pensive in the other,
smoldering in the third.
I bury my heel in the small
of his back. He’s a Nebraska boy in Brooklyn,
reading Lunch Poems on his lunch break. He’s got a laptop
full of work (most of it good) and an iPhone
with the latest cruising app.
Hands still bound, mouth still gagged, the boy rolls
onto his back and looks at me expectantly, his half-limp
penis twitching on his belly like a question
mark struggling to become an exclamation point.
Earlier at KGB, the feature read
from his book of what he called “meta-
persona” poems, meaning they were all poems
in the voices of different poets, and after doing
Frank O’Hara—which was rollicking, conversational,
and referred to a lot of Abstract Expressionists--
he talked about postmodernism
and pastiche, claiming imitation was the only
real form of expression left.
Now I fill the boy with my cock and imagine Manhattan
winking between its rivers, stars landing
on the fire escape, while over in Midtown, Frank floats
up MoMA escalators, pauses in front of the de Koonings,
recites Rimbaud to the Motherwells, dashes
off poems about Britney Spears
on the copier paper.
We finish and dress, and I say to him
Frank O’Hara’s overrated and
you’re a cliché,
and that’s why I like fucking you,
before hurrying to catch the L back to 8th.
My Father Takes Some English Courses
We sit at Starbucks
where my father, back from 45 years of work,
tells me about his latest stab at self-improvement,
English 211: The British Literary Tradition,
taught at night
at the local community college.
It is strange to see him,
man of decimal and bullet points,
who worked 70 hours a week dying DNA strands,
grappling with the same answerless questions
that caused me to smoke pot, read Bukowski,
and write poems no one understood.
And yes, he is frustrated
by Chaucer after hours,
stray syllables of Middle English falling from his tongue
like bits of ravioli while I dust off my Penguin edition
of The Canterbury Tales in translation:
“Here, Dad, try this…”
I watch him thumb my old textbook
brown with ten year old coffee stains,
his eyes searching the page for profundities,
the unassuming prose of my old margin notes
cropped tight alongside Chaucer’s decasyllables
like a cheap frame holding a classic painting.
We sit like this for a few minutes,
the customers coming and going like semesters.
If I squint my eyes just right, I can see the unspeaking years
hanging between us, gravid with mutual obsession,
both of our lives taken up
with the heavy business of marking the world.
--Both of the above poems comes from the revised edition of Charlie's first full-length collection, How the Boy Might See It, available from Jane's Boy Press