Issue 20: Tom Paine

Strange Angel

Is it strange Vonnegut came as you came?

There he was: all bemused, crazy haired,

smoking a Pall Mall, watching us fucking.

He apparated up on the ceiling, over your

tattooed shoulder, as you were hang gliding

into orgasm. I’m sure, as teenagers, reading

Vonnegut 1,100 miles apart, we were saved,

not knowing one day, in a flaccid town,

lost in a hodgepodge of lonely hedgehogs,

(how very Vonnegut!), we would meet?

He helped me see people in the elevator

with affection. I’ve been thinking of you

and me and Vonnegut. How fitting that

when I was flowing into the dark us of us,

Kurt grinned down from the bright ceiling


I sit in my office into the night.

When I read, I guess I don’t move.

The light is motion sensitive.

Lost in the poet Robinson Jeffers’ courage, the lights dim.

The succulents spear streetlight, the cacti chests swell,

the long purple grasses, like alien radar,

register the dog-penis pepper named Horace.

Nothing incommunicado, but awake, vibrato;

one green infidel mixed into the white box

from the market each morning.

It’s a zoo of no words.

Once you determine you can sit solo,

shipping time, fear, loneliness, the bookcase

shoveled with words…

After, then, no promises but hello.

Tom Paine’s poetry is upcoming or published in The Nation, Glasgow Review of Books, Volt, Fence, The Common, Epiphany, Green Mountain Review, Forklift, Tinderbox, Hunger Mountain, Hotel Amerika, Gulf Stream, Tampa Review and elsewhere. Stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New England Review, The O. Henry Awards and twice in the Pushcart Prize. He has won fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, Yaddo, and Bread Loaf. His first collection, Scar Vegas (Harcourt), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Pen/Hemingway finalist. He is a professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.