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Sample Poems by David Cazden

In The Convenience Store

The manager’s fingers are calloused and round
from spinning a day job,
two kids at day care,
rolling too many coins.

Her hair is highlighted brown.
Outside, it is warm.
Butterflies perch
on the black-eyed susans

on the overgrown storefront lawn.
I leaf through “Four Wheeler”.
Above the fudge rounds and cow tails,
watching fingers gather up coins, crumpled bills

from the pockets of strangers.
Customers swirl—it is mid-morning,
I need a Yoohoo or a Coke
so I edge to the counter

rounding the squat
stacks of newspapers,
the busy coffee machines.
Coins are dropping like milk

into cups of black coffee,
and caffeine and sunlight mix
in the glare of the windows.
My lungs’ cylinders rev

as I approach.
She smiles, yet I am silent
walking into the parking lot
where leaves dry on the branches

over my old sedan.
There are wings under my seat,
driving past the deep amber trees
where each day I think
she could be waiting.


Every month the doctors check
each stretch of her,
down to the paper ribbons
wound between the toes.

But I see only skin
the color of mocha,
freckles of cinnamon and clove.
As auburn hair falls upon the table

she tells me how they examine
the neck, the elbows, the delta
of the back, where a cool rain pours,
and I ask can I see the scar

so she pulls a sleeve away
from the center of her arm
revealing seared streaked skin
the color of pork left on the barbeque.

This is the opposite
of what a kiss might do,
an unraveling of flesh,
the threads sewn down.

She stares at me through glasses
thick as bowls of water.
At twenty five she already talks
beyond the afternoon. And after

our awkward conversation
I return to editing her poem,
erasing a few lines,
as if my hand could change
a story not my own.

The Joy Of Cooking School

She was involved in complexities of shallots.
He peeled thin skins, parting a garlic clove
like a dancer’s pale shoes.
Break time they spooned milk froth
over espressos.

Their talk was euphoric,
young faces flushed
in the spirals of steam.

They wondered where it would lead,
the smearing of flour
into the fat of a lamb,
the coaxing of spices

into a quiche.
Then graduation:
hair wilted with oil
tucked into apprentice chef caps.
They toiled in a stainless steel kitchen,
coming home late, heavy headed.

At night they learned to be young—
spilled food on the floor,
laughed when they broke
a capon’s hollow bones
or cracked eggs in a pan

into the mad hours,
with nothing better to do
than beat cream into peaks,
let shy thyme and dill
grow amorous under the moon.

In The Diner

Behind us, flashes of car windshields
off the streets, students
awaiting plates of food.
We float conversation
while the sky encircles us

without a cloud.
Behind the backdrop
of bright blue diner curtains,
stars swerve in daytime arcs.
I sip ice tea. You twirl
your hair in knots and swirls,
punctuating a story with your hands—

Yellow strands, russet,
tell me where to go today
as the traffic hums, and your fingers move
intricate and foreign
as the dances of the summer bees.


land on the roof,
complain about the weather,
how small the juniper berries

are this year. Scavenging the bread
behind our house,
they gather under tendons

of the telephone wires—
Knotted and strung, looped and twirled
around our conversation.

Fresh from the shower,
I watch crows numerous as pronouns—
I, you, he, launch in the winter air,

from the window near the phone
where I wait for you to call—
I know the season’s changed,

the ground is studded with acorns
and crows’ feet mark my calendar.
I do not notice

my towel’s no longer on:
It too has fallen
like a cloud of dark birds going down.