Issue > Poetry
Gerald Yelle

Gerald Yelle

Gerald Yelle teaches English at Greenfield (MA) High School. He has poems forthcoming in Poetry Pacific and Hot Street. Two books will be published in 2014: The Holyoke Diaries by Future Cycle Press and Mark My Word and the New World Order by The Pedestrian Press. He is a member of the Florence (MA) Poets Society.

Killing In The Market

Em pushes the bed against the wall,
taking the posts off, making it fit
under the slant of the roof, which
gives me to understand that she does it
so we'll have more room for the fish.
With its bowl in our room
we can't help paying more attention
and I wonder what it's like being
so confined. We tell it the names
of those who found peace, freedom
and contentment in the depths
of various cells. Yet for every Gandhi
and Malcolm X there must be a
dozen who if and when they
got out would just as soon fuck you
and everybody and everything.
We don't tell this to the fish. Instead
we say it's in good company: more
people in the tank today than
in all human history. Why do you
think they call it Incarceration
Nation, we ask it. We tell it that
we ourselves depend on moral chains
to keep us trouble free. We tell it
about happiness—and wonder
who it is we'd like to convince.

Great Expectations

When we broke up housekeeping
I moved to a small clearing in the
bocage. I tried to build a fire
but the wood was damp. I looked
around and saw that someone had
strung a line between two tall
shrubs and hung laundry. I wasn't
too thrilled to be sharing what the
sign called unpopulated wilderness
but I'd have snagged a shirt if one
had been dry. I went back to the
apartment for a change of clothes,
a tarp, some blankets and granola.
I didn't think to grab my phone
until I stepped out and a Bluetooth
pedestrian brushed by me. May-
be my son would want to talk about
his job. Maybe old roommates
discuss the terms of their separations.
Back in the elevator a maintenance
staffer had a panel off and was
soldering. He didn't know I was there.
I thought of my time in the invisible
army—I detested it and no one
even noticed: We were too young
to understand the lies we all had
to swallow. The elevator lurched into
motion. Some moving part nearly
caught my sleeve. In the morning
I'd build a fire, climb a tree, though
they were mostly like thumbs.

I Never Complain About The Noise Next Door

So this is what I do and this is how I do it. I plan it all out so that nothing is left to chance. I vibrate all the strings of my instrument. I take down the flag of convenience that's gotten me this far. I swallow hard. I listen closely. Open my writing folder. Swallow hard again. Collect my thoughts. Write them in an essay. Collect my folder. Take a drink of water. Swallow an aspirin. Walk across the room. Go out in the hall. Clear my throat. Forget the fact that I would never in a million years do this because I hate it when people do it to me. Then I remember the fact that I would never in a million years do this and it messes me up when I finally get around to it:

"What the hell is going on in here? It sounds like a goddamned head bangers' ball. You think it's funny? We'll see how hard you laugh -"

And I know right then I've taken the wrong approach. This is exactly why I would never do this sort of thing. The simple, "Could you please hold it down a tad? I know the walls are thin but we're engaged in some delicate operation and we're having trouble concentrating with the noise" escapes me. And then having to say it in an assertive yet half apologetic tone so that nobody gets the wrong idea.


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