Joseph Hess

My brother preferred stone.
After all, flora and fauna died
in strange places for unknown reasons.
Our slightly quivering museum guide
with heartfelt visions of earth’s strata
could have been my brother,

but Chicago consumed him
inside its granite and steel.
My brother belayed the bustling
squalor and dust by asking
questions regarding Earth’s apogees
across chessboards around Wrigley:

Do you know why no
mammoth bones are found in Ohio?
Because the ground’s too high
for glacier run off.
He often answered
himself like a plexi-glass Field
Museum button pushed

by smudging fingers passing
quickly towards closing time. But here,
in this small Ohio museum, a red
sandstone radiance snubs the gray
florescent ceiling lights where eras
agreed to by gaunt men awaken

tedious lives. Now, a giant
Pleistocene tooth with brown shellac
ripples in my hands causing me
to recall a borrowed windbreaker
stretched over my brother’s
contently curved shoulders. Home

from Chicago he’d meander Ohio’s
plowed fields below the horizon.
An occasional head tilt invited me
to join him, and I’d witness his gift
for spotting fluted points and remnants
not yet crossing to other worlds.

The Witness at The Flying J

A man with half a jaw wants two different
cartons of smokes.

With the cashier, he begins to tell his story
and I want him

to take his time. After all, I don’t want him
to miss anything.

The giant soda machine rattles as I notice
the chrome ridges

of a die-cast metal tractor toy. I figure this
for a quiet trucker

who’d buy it, give it to some mother’s son
long past a sleepy hour.

The man with half a jaw leaves
and the cashier’s eyes glisten, exchanging

a glance with the moon, iridescently white
above our station.

City Pool

I remember an evening balanced
on bike pedals clinging to the high link fence
outside the pool. I watched
the lifeguards moving and lifting lounge chairs
lithely, exchanging a language
rolling from their genders in a verbal dance
beyond my twelve years. It was all
part of some invasion I tried to understand
that summer—female swim suits
of expression and movement stifling any sense
of self I’d known. The towering
evergreens finally blurred into dusk. I gently
pushed from the chain link as my legs
strained against the pedals jerkily gliding over
the popping cedar. White and lavender
magnolias blew tethered above me. Ahead,
my wheels smashed a legion of golden
pistil and filament arranged on the shuffleboard
court like a ballroom dance stationary
in time. I’d be home soon to a warm, well lit
TV room while behind me marooned
secrets were folded into the black night.

Joseph Hess received an MA in Poetry from Miami University in 2012 and an MFA from Ashland University in 2015. He published two poems in the anthology Off Channel, comprised of the 2009 finalists in the Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest, and recently had poems accepted by Marathon Literary Review and Amaryllis. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.