Lush Life by Paul Ilechko

Lush Life

The lushness of city living
the darkness. . . .the noisome

stench of summer. . . .the cracks
that scar the boulevards as winter

bites. . . .as halogen erupts. . . .a
secondhand life of voyeuristic

obligation. . . .the jacket torn
the ramshackle shoes of sidewalk

life. . . .a fleshy strength. . . .his
shoulder shrugging nonchalance

the choice of violence. . . .avoiding
TV windows. . . .the dead

eyes of yesterday. . . .a memory
of Kentucky clay. . . .the kernel

of his presence. . . .his forgiveness
his blamelessness. . . .the corner-hugging

saxophone that infiltrates
his dreaming. . . .resplendent

in his filth. . . .he walks in circles
living on the tangent of his line.

by Paul Ilechko

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Editor’s Note: This poem is even more free than most free verse, but the choice of form (spaces, missing punctuation) skillfully emphasizes the fractured mental space of the speaker.

Outback by Paul Ilechko


Lean, vulture, wing-flexing.
The buttery grease of goat
stinking beneath your tendril
flight. Encirclement gathering.
The torn darkness of yurts and thorns.
The empty miles of salmon
and lavender, the murky
infinite plain. Spiders’ webs
at sunset, glittering crimson.
Lean, vulture. The barking
of coyote, the steady tramp
of civilization, the impossible
absence of water. A salt-stricken
world of houses shaped from mud.
The rendering of the gum tree.
Lean, vulture.

by Paul Ilechko

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Editor’s Note: Startling imagery belies the cliché that a picture is worth a thousands words—in this poem, the opposite is true.

Thirst by Paul Ilechko


And you find that the thirst
of alcohol is more powerful
than the thirst of salt.
The thirst for relaxation,
the thirst for inspiration,
the thirst for confidence:
all these, yes, and beyond
them the interaction
of blood and chemistry: the taste
of metal, of a dagger
at the throat; the scent of orange
blossom on a cloudy day
when the rain appears gray
and crooked in the distance,
and suddenly it’s running
down your neck, soaking
through your too thin jacket,
and you feel
the thickening of your voice,
hear the hoarseness
of the laughter in the room.
And alcohol takes you
by the hand and asks you,
so politely, to dance.

by Paul Ilechko

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Editor’s Note: This poem is what addiction feels like.