Brett Foster









Memento Mori, with Summer Fair


On the message board, Theosofest poster

for next week’s fair. It touts “The Influence

of Our Future” and other sessions, free of cost.

The past signs off on us with signatures

either opulent or ruinous. But whence

our lives from here on out? There is no cure,

meant narrowly, and so of course the future

haunts our decaying hearts. If we stray

past immediate, a single holocaust

is waiting for us all. It makes one pensive.

It hunts us, or we’re driven on our own

by every second — and glad ones, even those –

toward some mortal corner, baleful sixth sense

beyond the senses, hard and logical way.

Is that what the sunny poster means to say?

I confess, I want a peace that overflows

the formula, carried to the final figure.

Let’s anticipate instead a dark scene,

fair enough, but also one that’s somehow swaying

in front of us, inviting from where we’ve been

to some place fully realized, more serene.

Did I mention it’s so inviting, so assured?

Imagine walking around in a kind of relay

of the wise, among a host of cheerful tonsures.

I think of the “second naivete”

Of Paul Ricoeur, accepting, safely arrived,

anchored just off the outer banks of our lives.

We’ll be contrite, sufficient in our knowing,

self-left in good ways. Emboldened, we’ll lower

the rope, receptive to the motions, that most

welcomed of internal states once given

to comfort Adam, late in Paradise Lost.



Happiness, Carolina Highway


I tried to sing falsetto

amid the pine and palmetto.

I had a golden god’s bravado,

made bold by my Eldorado.



The Thing He Knew the Best


was the galaxy of professional wrestlers

               slammed headlong upward into

a boy’s zodiac. These fierce constellations:


Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Manny Fernandez,

               whose bloodied flannel shirt the boy

retrieved one night as if it were a relic


of suffering, of work, of manhood traveling

               from armory to rural armory,

one unforgettable night in Higginsville, MO.


And Harley Davidson and “Rowdy” Roddy

               Piper, and the fabulously rich and

platinum-blond Rick Flair, NWA champion,


Jove-like silver belt across his chest— Whooh!

               And Tommy Rich, also, also

blond but gentler, somehow, in this world


of menace and battle royals and blood.

               (A sculptor friend from Charlotte

once saw him, normal, unconflicted,


out of this histrionic orbit; he was at the bank.)

               The boy could not have known

that he had missed already, as in so many


things in this life, the golden age of the thing

               he knew best. They were the myths

that gave his love meaning: “Monster” Eiffel


Tower, aka Andre the Giant from Grenoble

               (a fact learned from a mail-order trading-card

set purchased from a coin- and stamp-dealer                                        (no stanza break)


in northern Minnesota), seven-foot-something

               Andre the Giant who was so sweet

and lovable in The Princess Bride, assisting


Wallace Shawn like a still-noble manchild,

               (his imaginative progeny was Zeus

from “parts unknown” who fought in the late ’80s),


or Iron Sheik with his Persian Clubs and anti-

               American taunts a decade ahead

of the hostage crisis— he once had been a body


guard to Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi

               but ultimately met defeat at the hands

of Sgt. Slaughter, who the annals say


“gave new meaning to the word ‘violence,’”

               but the defunct was reborn Phoenix-

like as Ayatollah in the recent Darren Aronofsky


film, Aronoskfy who personally loved Brooklyn’s

               “Polish Power” Ivan Putski, famed for his “Polish

Hammer” move and his ringside singing.


He especially loved that Hammer singing

               through the air. Of course this reminds us all

of Edward Spulnik, Polish Apollo, aka Tarzan or


Hercules or Wladek Kowalski, but most of all

               as Killer Kowalski, the name assumed

after a drop-kick ripped the ear off Yukon Eric.


(Later that night, he visited his nemesis

               in the hospital, and they laughed

at the savage, lovely absurdity of their lives.)


He would become the premier villain.

               They threw pigs’ feet                                                    (no stanza break)

at him. One woman stabbed him in the back.


Away from the action he became vegetarian,

               and worked for childrens’ charities,

where dying boys or ones growing up knew


he had pinned Andre the Giant in 1972.

               He later founded a wrestling school

in Salem, and died, teamed with boys dying, at 81.















Brett Foster is the author of The Garbage Eater (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2011). A second, smaller poetry collection, Fall Run Road, was awarded Finishing Line Press’s Open Chapbook Prize, and is forthcoming. His writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Books & CultureCellpoemsThe Chronicle of Higher EducationThe CommonIMAGEKenyon Review MeasureThe New CriterionPleiades, and Shenandoah. He teaches creative writing and Renaissance literature at Wheaton College.

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