Jeff Burt


Bruised Sternum


How many times poverty moved toward me
like a thickening cloud I cannot remember,
but the loose way it came, like a wild dog or coyote
ambling in odd misdirection still disturbs me.

I lived in my car with a pine tree for a toilet,
would sneak to a park at two AM to urinate
under the stars wondering if that morning
someone would snatch me for some level of indecency
or that the interview I had scheduled might include my fear
of horses and the exposure of the bruise
I carried on my sternum from a mare’s kick,
the compression flutter of my heart that brought
a nearness of death that I feel now in all cases of anxiety.

Often I wake in the late night’s darkness to thoughts
of being broke and cracking from desperation
as I face payments with no income and three kids
playing in a public sandbox oblivious to the terror
of being dragged to someone else’s house,
my wife able to sleep exhausted from her job
and pouring herself into the needy cups of our children.
I build a gate out of rotting throwaway lumber,
fear I am returning each time I raise the latch.




Jeff Burt NP1

Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife amid the redwoods and two-lane roads wide enough for one car. He works in mental health. He has poems in Rabid Oak, Mojave Heart Journal, Spry, Boomer Lit Mag, and The Monarch Review. He won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review narrative poetry prize.