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Ace Boggess: Four Poems

Ace Boggess is an ex-con, ex-husband, ex-reporter, and completely exhausted by all the things he isn’t anymore.  He is the author of two books of poetry: The Prisoners (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014) and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled (Highwire Press, 2003). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, Atlanta Review, RATTLE, River Styx, Southern Humanities Review and many other journals. He currently resides in Charleston, West Virginia. 


“And If It Comes to That, How

Can Any Man Be Called Guilty?”

—Kafka, The Trial


The sky threw a pastel quilt over everything

the evening I was innocent. I was innocent

when night tarred hills & highways,

feathered crooked treelines with clouds.

I slept little & don’t remember

what I dreamt. Perhaps dust burned

on the television’s never-ending face,

that household god with tears

of 1% static from the birth of the universe.

The coffee pot stank from old Maxwell House &

vinegar, or maybe that was the smell

of anticipation mixed with fear.

All around me, various clocks skewed time,

each trying to nudge another by a nose.

Still that soupy August dark:

it brimmed over mountains, spilling into town,

around alleyways & in through open windows

as if to preempt a coming day;

otherwise, to bury its dead with silence.


“What Do You Think I Should Do?”

[question asked by Lawrence Stroupe

after being rejected by the Parole Board]


If I were you I’d paint the outside

in still life, a freedom landscape,

utilize some post/neo-Cubist style

with angles so sharp they double back &

prick your thumb below the horsehair brush:

that blood is yours, each sting

yours & yours the added splash of flush

upon a stranger’s face on canvas—

suddenly it’s a stealing life,

a stage magician’s secret key

to facilitate escape. “The power to create,”

said Professor Ash, “is the power to destroy.”

Such power equals freedom

so the quest for power

remakes the quest for freedom

in its image. In all relationships,

said Nietzsche, exists a struggle

for power: even the act of sitting down

requires governance of will over

gravity, God & chair. Then,

that subservient chair in turn

defines its master as a portrait paints

its artist with every gasp & stroke.

If I were you I’d raise the brush,

conquer your world with crimson,

flesh tones, umber—create for yourself

an exit, a door on left

behind the table, the feast,

the dog, the brass lamp &

the girl in back &

through that doorway

grant yourself parole.


No Monuments


No Civil War general rides

a horse of algae-green

defending the prison yard.

No granite St. Francis

lowers his head like a circus elephant,

no marble Mary cups a hand

of five-card draw before her eyes &

no colorful cherry Christ

dismounts to walk amongst

the condemned masses. The many

do not look up to see

gnarled, snarling gargoyles

keeping angry watch like stone-

faced guards. No monoliths,

megaliths or obelisks rise

to prick the thousand tearless eyes of God.

No Easter Island faces

smile their many mysteries

around the basketball court &

benches. No milestones

mark the distance traveled,

no weeping matron mourns,

no headstones name

the numbers of the lost.





 give me all of it

the heat from the sun


the torn curtains

the cat that died of age


heap on me

those layers of bricks


to build my sorrow house

with its chambers of regret


your louse job my fault

your rundown Chevy mine


your alcoholic father

I poured his first drink


& his last

if ever it comes


the tumors on your uterus

I cut you open by moonlight


my needlework swift

stitching curses



& there


it’s not enough

give me more


the long grass

rain pouring through the roof


your lover who left you

the hearses that mar your view


as they circle

round & round your home


in ugly parade

for a terrible holiday




Ace Boggess drawing

These poems are from The Prisoners, copyright 2014 by Ace Boggess, published by Brick Road Press.

Reprinted by permission of the author.


3 comments on “Ace Boggess: Four Poems

  1. Pingback: Monday Must Read! Ace Boggess: The Prisoners | Mary Carroll-Hackett: Poetry and Prose

  2. Pamela Gressier
    September 28, 2014

    I survived my own imprisonment by averting my gaze, denying my jailers acknowledgement of their existence. I refused to look at them. Then, I turned it around and looked at them with compassion. I knew I would be leaving and they had to stay there day in and day out. I was innocent and they were not. It was their job to work on the destruction of other human beings. I got out.


  3. sarasallydavis
    September 27, 2014

    I love these three powerful poems. I’m so glad to have been introduced to hiiss work. All are good. My favorite is the first. My mentally-ill son is in state prison now, and all this has a familiarity about it. Yet, more important, I think his ring of truth will educate readers who do not have the awareness.


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This entry was posted on September 27, 2014 by in Poetry and tagged , , , .

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