1703 N. High Point Rd.
Middleton, WI 53562
Born in Ohio, Richard Roe came to Wisconsin from New Jersey in 1966. A retired Legislative Analyst and Editor, he began writing poetry in the mid-1970s, a bad habit he continues to this day. He wishes to be reincarnated as an opera singer, a baritone/bass who’s a villain or comic, the 2nd coming of Ezio Pinza. He has had poems published in Rosebud, Sow’s Ear Review, Free Verse, Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, Hummingbird, Beauty/Truth, and Fox Cry. He served as co-editor of the 2008 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar.
Knots of Sweet Longing (Wolfsong Publications)
Bringer of Songs (Fireweed Press)
What Will You Find at the Edge of the World? (Fireweed Press)
What Will Become of Us?
The center of town looks like a scene
from an alien-invasion movie: blood
pours from people’s ears, a foot
sits on a curb, glasses in the gutter,
a briefcase burning, an empty skirt.
My darlings, the apocalypse waits
at expressway entrances, or lurks
two blocks away. Take a right
and follow the crooked boulevard.
If the juggernaut passes you by
invite it back: tank treads, bomb
triggers, gunsights, a black-winged
angel smoking a cigar and giving
directions, missing two fingers
from each hand. Follow the narrow
road where leaves curl in flames.
Now for the bad news—in Tuesday’s
A Tale of One Urban Night
A woman dressed in a dark top
and pants quicksteps across
the floor of an abandoned warehouse.
Her head jerks like a nervous
bird on the lookout for predators.
A man steps out from the right.
His right arm flashes like a street
fighter pulling a blade; he motions
to the woman with his left hand.
When she goes to him, he grabs
her around her shoulders, walks
her in lock-step toward the back wall,
and stops, she twists away from him.
A second man appears in front of her
holding his arms out like a rescuer.
She bumps against him, puts her arms
around his neck. As they step away
the knife fighter drops his hands.
The rescuer turns the woman in circles.
They lock in an embrace, constantly moving,
like a couple trying to escape a barroom
brawl through the back door.
A third man appears from the left.
He crouches, knees bent, hands
at ready like a boxer setting
up for a knockout punch.
He takes the woman by an arm.
She looks at him like a combatant,
stamps her right foot, tap-steps
her way around his feet,
stamps her left foot, he grabs
her hands, pulls her to his chest.
The other two men close in
like street thugs looking
for action. The boxer delivers
the woman into the arms
of the knife fighter, she kicks
each of his legs, backs away,
leaps into the arms of the rescuer
who holds her for the moment,
then rejects her, pushing her
into the path of the boxer.
They have her surrounded.
I see an urban horror story
unfolding, assault, knife fight,
the woman dead, one or more
of the men down and bleeding.
I summon a rare burst
of courage, bang through a door,
holler let her go, on my way
to becoming an urban legend,
a headline in the morning paper,
a featured hero for Reader's Digest,
or an emergency room statistic.
They glare at me like a brawling family
that has found a common enemy.
Do you tango? the woman asks.
Before I can answer, she takes
me into their circle like a backslider
into a prayer group that asks
for forgiveness, deliverance from sin.
Only now do I hear the bandoneon,
vibes, bass, guitar, and piano.
Can't dance at that tempo! I say,
but they grab hold and pull me along.
The woman laughs softly,
says they will show me the way
to walk, tame my wayward feet,
to let go, keep your knees bent,
becoming a new kind of urban legend.