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Jeff Burt


Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California and works in mental health. His poems have appeared in Rabid Oak, Eclectica, Williwaw Journal, Wisconsin Review, and ucity. He won the 2017 Cold Mountain Poetry Prize.

Wings of the Steppes

Six, she curries the tassels of the handlebars,
whispers in imaginary triangular ears,
training wheels left by the trash bin,
checks the tires as if hooves,
shines the chrome medallion
in the middle of the seat support arch
and finally tosses her head back,
gathers her hair into a rubber band,
furiously repeats three times and shakes,
the bike part horse, she the wingèd completion,
a tulpar that flies over the Central Steppes
of 38th Avenue, down the block
to the fire hydrant, a quick coup,
then past the walkup, her aunt
counting the seconds and her uncle
taking his first toke by the kitchen door.
The tulpar flies to the street sign
and back again twenty times,
as high as she can count with confidence
of keeping track, returns Sunday paper
in hand emerging from mythology
to the barking tabloid of this world.

Written On Walt Whitman’s Birthday

Down on the ancient wharf, the sand, I sit, with a new-comer chatting
From Twenty Years, by Walt Whitman
I finish the long walk to the Santa Cruz wharf
where grace pervades on a bench
when the sun burns off the fog
with Whitman chatting in my ears,
hear his tones on the wood and steel
in thrums of arrhythmic leather,
soles of rubber squeaking like clarinets,
and I think he’d like the collar-less throng
in tennis shoes and cheap sandals,
uncoordinated jazzy high-pitch roast of leisure
among the regular grind of work,
how he’d listen to my life and pull me from the wind
like an anonymous tuft and weave me into the fabric
of a nation, turn anomie into bonhomie,
how, with head bent down from the enormous weight
of inclusive thought, he’d exalt the beautiful
ugliness of toes, long for warm bowls of water,
soapsuds, and a thousand hands rubbing feet.
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