The Tower Journal

Mark Belair


one night / our parents went ballroom dancing / so my sister and i / to amuse ourselves / thought
we’d free perky / our old blue parakeet

we closed all the windows / so perky couldn’t actually escape / then opened his cage to let him /
for the first time we could recall / fly about a bit

perky stepped right up to the lip of his door / leaped out then / to our open horror / and stifled
hilarity / failed adequately to fly

perky smacked on a table / shot into a wall / soared up to a ceiling corner then / chirping crazily /
crashed to the floor

we finally finagled poor perky / back into his cage / with the help of our father’s old crusty
fishing net

and when our parents returned from their rare night out / flushed / tipsy / talkative / bumbling
into tables / we stared at them / unsure whether to laugh or cry


A late-day thunderstorm
pummels the cobblestone street.

Swollen puddles—
snaring windblown leaves—

full as boatloads
of refugees.


Rising and rushing
gutter water

braids the bright
night sky.

Starlight swirling
like cold-kept dreams of dawn.


Morning puddles

the calm
cobblestone street.

Where it gave
where it now receives.

new britain

black pipes running lengthwise / seemed made for me to climb / until my arm got pulled
so hard / I felt my shoulder pop out

mr gibson’s dachshund / poops there / my mother furtively hissed / about a scratchy
patch of grass / beyond the black-pipe walkway fence

then she glanced up warily / to the old stooped cuss himself / standing watch at his front
window / dark with suspicion of little children

mr gibson was our landlord / one who made his only tenant / pay weekly / in person / in
cold / as my father mysteriously put it / cash

mr gibson didn’t attend to the nasty dachshund himself / one of his two / grown / grim /
unmarried / daughters did that


next door to us lived six-year-old twins / wayne and wesley / who / that year / flushed a
sack of small red potatoes down their toilet

thinking / like the twins / that flushing toilets made magic / i couldn’t grasp why all the
grown-ups made such a stern / disapproving fuss


in the hushed / gleaming store / where my father sold jewelry / i’d stand at stiff attention
beneath my cowboy hat or sailor’s cap / while perfume-stinky salesladies / gushed at me

and my big sister / their pearl necklaces / and heavy bosoms / dangling / in our squirmy


on weekdays / my sister went to school / only four / i did not / i stayed home and played
in the freedom of the wide linoleum floors


some saturdays my father / snapping scissors / and i / cheering him on / chased my sister
around our four rooms / threatening to snip her long / obnoxious braids off

we’d trap her / she’d scream / and the tense / thrilling moment would come / when i’d
half hope this would be the day / my father would actually do it / teach a lesson to the

stuck-up brat
/ and half hope he wouldn’t / a dad who mauls his children / even a snobby
big sister / no one wants


sundays in the park / i’d run downhill / my mother sitting on a picnic blanket / me timing
my loss of control to when my tumble would safely land me / in her warm / pillowy / lap


then my father got promoted and we moved from new britain to another store in the
connecticut chain / me hauling these disconnected memories / that i finger now like

oddly mixed heirlooms in an old jewelry box / jewels that can’t be strung together on any
strand i know / so jewels of memory / i know / i can trust

The Storm  System

The death toll
in the Southern states
from a series of fierce storms
stands at 281 and counting, with countless
ways of life—homes, jobs, histories—destroyed.

the day broke
overcast, the spent system
having moved in overnight, light
rain predicted for later, my morning routine

the same
but for carrying
an umbrella, the rain sure
to drench the dry foliage and rinse the dusty streets,
its leading scent—trailing its past—earthy, potent, impassive.

November Night

Too warm a night for November, yet
here it is, a gentle rain only just done,

the befogged buildings, above the sixth floor,
brilliant runways of light, the thick layer of

wet autumn leaves disguising puddles
(we have to watch our step), the air steamy

as August, everything lush, nothing
in this fall night what they forecast,

my dearest, my darling,
my lifelong love.

Copyright © 2014 Mark Belair

Mark BelairMark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Poetry East. His books include the collection While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013) and two chapbook collections: Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). For more information, please visit

The Tower Journal
Spring/Summer 2014