Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

John Samuel Tieman: Self-portrait with folks in St. Louis

At a table in the deli
I’m the guy in the Nam vet hat
the Hasidic kid in line
sings softly in Yiddish
of a childhood he never had
a song of some mythic shtetl
at the table the Black girl dares
the Korean kid to double-dutch
there’s an AIDS activist about
to go for the free refill
the beat cop stares at a nosh

for years even decades
I ran from this place my home
some kid running from mother
dreading her and longing for her
milk in me and me in her milk
packing for a war or another trip
composing as I go
all the words I’d never say
the words that moved me
home finally

still I recall the rains in the islands
the cold in Mexico and how
I imagined my mother standing
on the porch looking south and for
years I’d look back north hoping
to see nothing but distance

now I am in the north
and the north is in me
still I wish for a leaf
to blow in this door
or a wren of all things
to land on a car
all I find is myself whispering
a little Latin prayer
to what and for what
that’s anybody’s guess


Copyright 2020 John Samuel Tieman

One comment on “John Samuel Tieman: Self-portrait with folks in St. Louis

  1. saskia Niehorster
    December 5, 2020

    Thank you for your poems, the one about our teacher Gordon made me so sad. I longed back for those years where he taught us about life while teaching us art, and to observe and see not only shades and gradations but light. May your True North be found in other latitudes as well…

    Liked by 1 person

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