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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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If we noticed them before,
it was in the vague way we know
of slaughterhouses or hands
busy in granaries. Now no parking lot was safe
and the logos of giant stores
wouldn't help us.

Looking for cover, we found trajectories:
anyone could die hauling lumber
or cookware, trunk
open like a grave.
The crosshairs of the possible
fixed us at the gas pump
and its spinning numbers: click.
Our own lives setting us up
for the quick kill.

Who would have thought
so many windowless boxes
wheeled around us,
blank but for "wash me"
fingered in the grime?
What relief when the leads
turned false,

and we could see them
once again as nothing more
than ambulances
for mundane needs --
fish on ice, furniture
in bubble wrap,
hardwood for our floors.


                ―Robert Herschbach


Most statues don't crack jokes,
curse the Yankees, or try out cheap lines
on the neighbor's wife. They have no eloquence
to scare away the birds
or weather, the green disease. It's enough
to hold a beauteous pose
for the daily, tousled artistes,
to move traffic
through the roundabout,
to be paperweights
holding the city in place. The music
in their ears is Sousa
or the Rock Falls Elementary School
Children's Choir, their best friend
any stray dog sniffing
the flowerbed. They want for nothing
but change. 

The life of the living: a dream
forgotten on waking.
What they have woken to
they can't tell us,
maybe it is like a flash
that dizzies a chamber of commerce president
mid-speech, a rope bridge
snapping in the brain.

                ―Robert Herschbach


Other families are like and unlike
yours, cherishing their sugar cones
and Camp Jesus tees,

the parents slacking behind daughters
big-haired and giddy, the little sons
wanting key chains or a pen

with the state name. You don't know
any of these folks, though you know
why they're here. You've lost twenty minutes,

a half hour, the timed lights at home
already on by now as you shave
your child's milk mustache

and buy the plush pony. Outside, colors
at highway speed: slate, titanium,
pearl. A brochure tells of caverns

and a theme park, a steam train
from ancestral days. Quick: take your turn
by the big map that shows

where you are, if only for now.

                ―Robert Herschbach


Men employed by fatigue
wear its logo, above the heart.
The woman at track's edge
is dressed for the wrong hour:
turntables are silent, strobes dark.
The sound of her pumps
like recrimination. Someone
should have taken her home.
Someone should have chosen another color
for this station, not this jaundice yellow.
We would not buy it on drapes
or garb. We would not wish to see it
as we die.

A sign counts down minutes
to the next gust of wind.
What if desire were like that:
always on schedule? Efficient
as the Deutsche Bahn?
When the light carriers
slow to a halt,
the men stand up all at once,
grabbing their lunch pails.


                ―Robert Herschbach