John FitzGerald



(Ireland – USA)




Descended of Thieves




Part One


After just a few hours, I’m by myself.

The one who made me called it a day.

I’ve forgotten the names of things,

and yet, am wondering what to wear.


Was it yesterday that I went mad?

It’s the smell of knowledge beckoning

from every fork, and bend.

That scent which marks my boundary.


Had it not flown here to breach me, well….

Hello! Is someone there to help?

Only dark responds:

I am.


Then I went back inside my head

and believed it must have been a dream,

not some lovesick, restless flight

where every sound I hear is music.


On my line, I reeled a hole that opened,

blurting out a butterfly.

When it established an orbit around me, I swatted.

Shot off my mouth like a star into night.


I woke to a loud knocking.

Opened the door – it was the wind.

Are you the clay, the dust, the ash?

I answer, ‘that’s what I fear.’


Then freeze, it says,

or I’ll blow you away.

The fire is there to back him up.

They warn the tree to get ready –


we caught him with the sun in his eyes,

and the moth-wing slime of light on his hands




Part Two


They proclaim, just in case,

a Hell is required.

Nearly everyone volunteers,

my ancestors among them.


They tear down the gallows to stoke the flame.

In the form of a serpent, the judge arrives,

hung from the rafters like a rope.

He gets right into my face and hisses:


Isn’t that a lump in your throat?

“No! I didn’t do it! I just yanked the hook

and threw it back already dead. The depths

all carefully measured by the jawbone of an ass.”


Why would you make up a word for mother?

By glow of cigarette they probe.

We caught you two together naked.

Would you like to explain to us what you were doing?


“Damn, I haven’t a clue where she came from.

And she’s not quite my species, notice the hair.

If I appear shaken, don’t worry,

I’m sure it’s only the sedation.”


What of your mother, isn’t she missing?

And your first wife too, what was her name?

You didn’t think we knew about her.

Tell us, exactly, where you’ve been hiding.


I examine probabilities,

arrive at too many conclusions,

crave to tell a convincing lie.

“Define please, what you mean by where?


Is it in the entire scheme of things,

relative to my existence,

or particular location

on a map you had in mind?”


They murmur among themselves in agreement,

nod their heads in unison:

Definitely good and evil –

Guilty as charged.




Part Three


Either the bench or the chair then suggested:

Why don’t we string him up by his teeth?

Then, to the fire, whispered

Isn’t our little project complete?


“Wait! I wasn’t anywhere that day, believe me!

It came to this, I didn’t mean it.

It’s all her fault – the woman did it!

She cheated when we broke the wishbone!”


Declared the rope, aware of a loophole:

Give us your version of where you came from.

“My father is the unbearable sun.

My mother is the earth that raised me.


I never had any formative years.

Only hours ago, I woke with a name,”

(Muttered the gavel to the sword

I told you he’d be suspicious….


The broom in the corner said

Please, carry on).

“My first wife sold herself to night,

who made her a constellation.


I killed my brother for his skin.

It was dark, and I was cold.

I used the foot of a mountain to beat him,

then made shoes, and an overcoat.


Other elements were jealous.

The water despised my air-breathing form,

the fire, of course, obsessed by bone.

Come to think of it, I’m an orphan,


I’ve always been alone.”




Part Four


The others got all the music.

This is my power –Words.

My first wife never understood.

She gave me a grunt when it was small.


I brought it up.

Was I supposed to let it die?

It became a giant tongue

that licked my face and washed my back.


It’s the tongue that eventually got her.

I could not only give names, but call them.

Big ones, that knew what to break.

I controlled it, at first.


They used to come running

whenever I summoned. But after a while

they tired of it. Transformed

into wine and took everything over –


then told me I was going to die.

Can you imagine? Me! Their maker!

My philosophy now: trust no one.

Keep that will stashed out of sight,


right beside the family jewels,

or in the frame, behind a photograph.

Then if anyone inquires, tell them

that’s the one of me, my finger


steady on the trigger,

hoping for nothing to soon set it off.

I make a living on the six,

if the price isn’t years, it’s nothin’.


I practice repeating over and over,

What are you lookin’ at, chump?

Hey, I ain’t no poet, jack,

millions are doomed to be me, and why?


I swear it was the woman told me

the infinite moon was mine.

Can you blame me for what I believe?

Yes, because we believe we can.




Part Five


The judge insists:

Enough of this drivel.

We warned you this morning,

the terms understood.


The woman couldn’t possibly…

We created her later that afternoon.

Obviously, she couldn’t have known.

Now the curse is on, so beat it.


It all worked out pretty much as it should,

get lost, and don’t come back alive.

Assemble enough thieves,

and there’ll be nothing they can’t accomplish.


But inasmuch as you’re a gambler,

I’ll give you a chance to go for broke –

Your fantasies for your fears?

Throw down your wobbling Jello of flesh


and bet it all to succumb as before

to addiction, your surest wager.

Meanwhile, a small orange fish

oblivious to evaporation blows rings


throughout a bowl it thinks the ocean,

soon to wriggle in a puddle

against a suffocation all its own.

How ignorant.


From Favorite Bedtime Stories (Salmon Poetry, 2014)














John FitzGerald is a poet, writer, editor and attorney for the disabled in Los Angeles.

A dual citizen of the United States and Ireland, he attended the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, where he was editor of the Law Review. His most recent book is Favorite Bedtime Stories (Salmon Poetry, 2014). The Mind was published by Salmon Poetry in 2011. His first book, Spring Water, was a Turning Point Books prize selection in 2005. Telling Time by the Shadows was released in April 2008 by Turning Point Books. As yet unpublished works include Primate, a novel and screenplay, and the non-fiction Everything I Know.

He has contributed to the anthologies Poetry: Reading it, Writing it, Publishing it (Salmon Poetry), Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology (Salmon Poetry), and From the Four-Chambered Heart: In Tribute to Anais Nin (Sybaritic Press) as well as to many literary magazines, notably The Warwick Review, Barnwood Mag, Askew Poetry Journal, Spillway, and Lit Bridge.


Favorite Bedtime Stories:

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