Joe Weil

JAY! (for Clare)

Anyone who knows me knows

the blue jay is my totem bird:

I have found his feathers at odd times

stuck between pages of Tacitus

or floating down from a Beech limb

where no Jay had seemed to perch.

His raucous proclamations—high tenor

to a crow, wakens me to winter’s smudge

against the glass. His shifting moods,

his pilfering of stones his dropping of

acorns from a hundred feet

of sky—all that, and then my daughter

autistic, lost to her own smudges

her own ferocious light cries “Jay! Jay!”

Because she has heard him every morning

at her window.

Because he is the “and” that separates

and joins us.

For Wallace and Real Estate

Perhaps the truth begins with a walk around the lake

certainly, not an arduous walk

(that’s competition)

but, a leisurely stroll wherein you pause

for the dead pike, its gills still livid red

its eye saying “aye” or “I” or

“glassy man in the glassy eye of a pike,

what have your perambulations availed thee?”

Perhaps nothing like this occurs, or, gingerly,

you toe the dead fish and get on with it

What are you getting on with?

The walk. Oh yes. But the way through the world

is more difficult to find than the way beyond it.

To be beyond the world, one simply prays or

starves, or dies, but to be in the world, not above your life

(see: saints and whips) nor below it (see sinners and whips)

but in it—is like teaching toads to dance.

It can be done, and for profit, but why?

Last night, I dreamed I was a neutrino

penetrating the lake. Only my journey

was visible—like a pike slipping through

the shallows, the tri-foil, the lily pads,

the murk of a rainy Monday. What is Monday

to a pike? perhaps a fairer question might be

what is the lake to me? I circle it in a wind breaker.

There are lovely cottages that surround it, claiming

a shore line is capable of trespass, and therefore

trespassers will be prosecuted. It is hard to

walk around the lake. I have to break the law

or go around the houses which have cut off my

view. Can truth and property co-exist?

The dead pike is a murder mystery. No

raccoon claw, or fish lure tells the tale.

These are summer cottages, and it is not

yet summer. Still the dog with the nine heads

froths at my approach. The snake pokes

out its tongue to taste my reality.

The point of vision and desire is the same

but if you cut off my vision, will my desire

be re rerouted? Will I look at the cottages

the way I look at the swirl of a great fish?

And how do I know the fish is great

if only by its swirl? After the final no there

comes a yes upon which hangs the

future of the world. I close my eyes and

the cottages disappear. The trespass signs

vanish. I imagine the lake, and walk it

full circle. The Pike rises to the silver flash

of no one’s lure. I say out loud, the poet

is priest of the invisible. The circle widens.

until this, too, is a lake.

Three Poems in Homage to Nicanor Parra:

1. The Wine Gnats

the wine gnats are very drunk

I used to get drunk

and would fall into holes

as often as they

but I escaped

guess I was luckier

than the gnats

or this, too, is a bottle

and some eye

is staring at me

right now

saying poor







2. Stars are Cliché

You’re not supposed to

look at stars

or rather you can look

until your neck

gets stiff

but don’t dare

put them in

a poem

that’s a cliché

like mountains and rivers

and angels and ashes

and, god forbid, the moon.

But fuck it all:

here’s some stars

right next to a full moon

and the hunch backed

shadow of a mountain

that is inhaling

and exhaling like

a dosing old lady

with her dentures glowing

in a glass on the dresser

Suddenly (forgive me)

I love that old lady

And want to

kiss her furrowed brow

I know, I know

furrowed? But damn it,

It is and a peasant

is standing there

digging up potatoes

he finds her little soul

the one she misplaced

and places it

just so above her house.

It is a star! One of a constellation,

No doubt about it.

Perhaps it will guide me

out of this poem.

Already my work shop

leader is yawning

I love the gold filling

that lives in the back

of his seldom open mouth

it’s the best thing about him.

As for the rest?

No stars, no mountains,

no moons, no rivers

no old lady with a furrowed brow.

How does he live like that?

He may as well be dead.

3. Love Talisman

You held a toy gorilla

over my head

and whispered:


three times

as you circled my


It was a spell I suppose

for you pressed

the toy gorilla gently

in my hand

I’ve carried it with me

ever since.

Thank you!


the strangest things

have saved my life.

Published 10-14-17

Joe Weil grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was a tool grinder for 20 years, and is  now an assistant professor at Binghamton University in upstate New York. He loves the absence of traffic upstate, but hates not being able to get good Portuguese or Spanish food. Weil plays piano, guitar, and, occasionally Irish tin whistle. He also sings. His latest book is A Night in Duluth, published by NYQ books. These poems are from a collection called the Backwards Year. He hopes you enjoy them. You can link up with him on : The Gauntlet, a link to poetry series around the country and beyond (a facebook service he invented for those who want to promote readings and books,etc). Weil is available for poetry and music gigs, with his wife, the poet, Emily Vogel at