The Poetry

of Glen Chesnut

You will not find typical poetry where you have to read a poem two or three times to figure out what the poet had to say.

Here, the meanings are straight forward, crystal clear: sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but always memorable.


At the South City Kaiser
it’s a veritable geyser of geezers.
The line snakes through the hospital
corridors, out the door and down the block,
then disappears around the building.

Where it stops, I do not know.
A teenager walks by, a ring in his nose,
black leather jacket with silver studs.
I hear him say, “They must be giving away money.”

The man in front of me, who can barely walk,
says, “This is worse than the chow line
on the USS Hornet.”

To pass the time, I’m reading a book
written by a man who could only move
his left eyelid. He’s remembering a trip
he took to Lourdes and the long lines
of gimped-up people hoping for a miracle.
In front of me, I see people with canes,
walkers, wheelchairs. This could be the line
to Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto. And it’s true
many of us could use a miracle, but right now,
a simple flu shot will fill the bill.



For Anwar Sadat

Right in the middle
of the parade
he got up,
as one who has finished
sooner than expected,
and left.

Who saw him go,
they, so busy
with remembrance?

Into the desert
even-paced and
greatly calm
he walked,
as a king might.

The lion with no face
At the cubic stones,
he ascended
the perpendicularity
of his shadow,
as a shadow that had carpeted
his arrivals and departures,
and he entered
among the warm stones,
first into shade
then deeper down the dark,
sand-dusted corridors
along which his hands had
no need to feel.

In a chamber dimly lit
by air-starved candles,
he removes his heart,
his lungs, his spleen,
fitting them gently
into awaiting jars
beside a wooden couch
upon which, peaceably,
he lays himself down.



I spent the day standing on a 24-foot ladder
scraping and sanding the side of my house—
scraping and sanding with one hand and
hanging on with the other; I’m afraid of heights.

Down in Brazil, a fisherman yawned
and a fish jumped out of the water and down his throat.
Fish strangles fisherman—irony and death.

My knees go watery when the ladder jiggles.

There is water on the moon, just waiting for us.
And a big bull’s-eye out in space to shoot for.

A woman is squeezed to death by pet python.

And that young girl who offered me everything
down by the creek, and I didn’t take it.
I’m sure she is now a grandmother.

When did I become afraid of heights?
As a kid, I climbed tall trees, leaping 
from limb to limb like Tarzan of the Apes.
Now my knuckles turn white clinging to the ladder.

I spent the day thinking random thoughts
while scraping loose paint.

I came to no conclusions.



Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany
was so impressed by
Annie Oakley’s marksmanship
that he stood 30 paces away
and let her attempt to shoot the ashes
off his cigarette as he held it between his lips,
which she did. A piece of cake for Annie.

But what if Annie had missed that shot,
put that bullet through the Kaiser’s temple?
Think of how profoundly that would have changed
the history of the world.

World War I would not have happened.
No World War II; and maybe
no Soviet Union, no Korea, and no Vietnam.

This would be a much different world.
A world that would never know
what horrors Annie saved us from.
A world in which Annie would be remembered
as “the woman who killed the Kaiser.”

And I would not be sitting here writing this.
Come to think of it, there is little chance
I would even be here.


In Glen's Own Voice

The Walking Plow
Amarillo, 1935
Paying the Price

The Written Works of Glen Chesnut

The Bullfight

The little man on my right says in English,
“You Americano, no?”
I answer yes, and he offers me a drink
of his tequila, which I take.
Then he says, “You know Marysville?”

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