Joan Colby

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Traps love in a well pit
or stalks like a stranger in a park.
Ardent as a surveyor
in unmapped territory. The wolfpack
harrying the bison calf
while its mother bellows and paws
the red earth. The pupils of lust
are wide as bullseyes. Its arrow targets
the heart. Cruel as a hostile takeover.
It wears leather and ties you to the bed
of attrition letting kindness wither,
Denying intimacy and yet you’ll bristle
to its touch like a porcupine.

Lust is salt and vinegar.
A switchblade in its boot.
A rose in its black glove. A thorn
to pierce the tongue with
bad language. Its severe hand
caressing your willing body.


A stagnant pond of algae.
Cask of soured wine. Old
clothes. The dust of centuries
in the undiscovered catacombs.

A hammock. Hanger with a shirt
that no one ever wears. A fallen
limb. Dice in the felt cup of a closed
saloon. A mailbox on the route
of non-delivery. What ethic
imbues you to deny its lure.

If you could hang upside down
from a branch your whole life
subdued with the drug of indolence
why would you care.


The planet Jupiter feasting
on a barbecue of stars.
The sea, a wine of distraction,
tides reeling to a hunger that
is timeless.

Need is a lost child while desire
rides the horse down to
skin and bone. Eating the landscape,
the nubs of fingers, the crown roast.

Devouring, savoring, stuffing
until the belly bloats and the heart
knocks at the door of satiation.

As if sitting in a cheap
recliner swilling beer and handfuls
of salted peanuts is any way to live.

Gluttony: its Corporation. Its
Love Handles.


Has red hands and a mouth so vast
no kisses can constrain it.
An industry of propagation churns
profits of black lung and starvation.

Greed steals a rice bowl from a hungry child.
Eyes hard as diamonds cut through  the glass
of generosity. Endangered forests fall and mines
release pure silver skinned from toil. The house

of greed is crammed with obsessions
of wanting more. It cheats at cards
palming the King that crowns a royal
flush. Dismantles elephants for

ivory, trades guns for gold,
slays the last tiger to lay its hide
before the fire. Greed keeps. Greed
Never shares. It wears
the green jacket of distrust.


Wears a big hat and lies
about its age.  A pharaoh
in a tomb where a thousand menArtwork by Gene McCormick
perished hauling rock. A tango

in the wintry halls of
Helsinki. A Bird of Paradise.
Scholar of ambition. A wall
of trophies. Posterity composes

its embellishments. Adds
inches, polishes the floor
of accomplishment. Despite the
wishful thinking of detractors,

there is not always a fall. Pride
is surefooted as a canyon mule.
The silver belt buckle
of a bull-rider. Spurs of

a vaquero. Dancing pumps
of Fred Astaire. Clark Gable’s
mustache. Hemingway’s boat,
Kerouac’s typewriter.

Under that top-hat, turban or
Sombrero, Pride always has
something to hide.


Steals a dagger studded with emeralds.
Plagiarises philosophers. Hauls its
briefcase of hypocrisy.
Inscribes an itinerary of friendship,
mails the anonymous letter.
Wants to abandon the lonely city
of self doubt for a mansion on the
lakefront. Or to dance on a gilt table with
the honored guests. Carries a sad bouquet
of short fingers, corrective shoes. Emits
the acrid stench of self-pity. How the pretty
Faces on the evening news
can mock existence. Going places
where only they are welcome.


Lives in a scarlet room in the
old mansion of grudges. Its hair
afire with the embers of ancient
remembrances and wrongs. The songs
about how lovers absconded
with the heart-shaped locket,
the checkbook, the jar of honey.
Wrath is old as a Joshua tree.
Misunderstood as a black
hood or the furs of dozens
of ermines. It lurks
like a grandfather clock tracking the
cruel moments or fumes like a geyser,
sputters like hot-pots or prodded coals.
Or ice cold as the Snow Queen’s heart.
A pitbull on a chain is too prosaic
as is a circle of peasants upholding torches.
Such images trite as a fist through a window.

Wrath drives a muscle car.
Hits and runs perfected
by the rage in its cylinders.


Joan Colby's 14th book of poetry, The Wingback Chair, was published by FutureCycle Press this fall. A chapbook, Bittersweet, is just out from Main Street Rag Press. One of her poems is a winner of the 2014 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She is associate editor of both the Kentucky Reviewand FutureCycle Press.