Two Poems

by Brian Foley

How I Spent the Ransom

I hadn't seen you since
the night we hung posters
of your face with a reward
for knowledge of your whereabouts
until I witnessed your very reaction
buoyant in the sea of faces
of a studio audience.

Now each time I tune in
to watch the sweeping pan
across the crowd
I look for you among
the missing gone wild
in their unmarked graves.

Sympathy for the Almanac

                 for Jim


I was napping under the station wagon when I received word
of the abolishment of the County.

The State house, in a ballad of summer cocktails,
had lifted the reigns off the land and let it become predatory.

Being poor breeders of economy & sons, we were to be
swallowed by the sister district, Smith County.

I could not deal with another zip code change to my identity.
I was at the point in my life where my mailbox remained

steadfast, or not at all.


We issued a decree for lost basketball rivalries and better
weather (our county being 15 minutes closer to the equator).

We begged sympathy for our place in the almanac, which
assuredly rests on all bedside tables underneath paperback bibles.

And the War. Let us not forget the War.

'The history of the world began at Crooke Farms,'
I testified before the Committee of Everyday Concerns.

But their hour of duty had been paid off with quarters
for the parking meters of Main Street, Smith County.


We crossed borders under moonlight,
wrote editorials on unfairness keyed into the sides of cars.

They retaliated by kidnapping our dogs
and holding them for control of the Pharmacy and Bank.

We finally reached a stalemate in the presence of dawn

when young William Corbett blew three fingers off his hand
while lighting a cherry bomb intended for the mayor's tailpipe.

(His digits would later be paraded down Main Street
on a plate surrounded by chrysanthemums.

We kept solemn hands in our pockets out of respect.)

The days were stacked against us like weekend paperwork,
our phalanx broken by offshore funding,

which would be later mythologized into popular song
recited under the breath at roadside checkpoints.

It was an end to the community era.

Our clothes no longer comfortable, we turned our heads as the
pageantry of renaming took to the towns' landmark and square.


It happened at the Mandatory Handshake Reception, in the
woods behind the church. I was making out with my wife

in the bathroom, when I saw the lofty pillars of trees afloat
with smoke and roasting outside the window, reflected

in her wire-rimmed spectacles like dancing marionettes.

The whispered rumor of a rebellion assembling somewhere
in the back of a pickup truck sashayed through the dancehall.

I was restless like a dog for the outdoors, but
I eased my lady's tears of worry with a knowing soft punch

to the gut to raise her spirits. We had already lost one child to a
recruiting law firm on the Other Side.

As I turned to go, drinking in the public panic and ragtime
piano, I accepted the fate that I would never again see my beloved

with the resilience of a town selectman.

Brian Foley burns aways his days curating author readings at Brookline Booksmith. By night he catalogs alternate histories of town halls and fills out paperwork for his license to play with words.