Poetry by Tom C. Hunley

Read More: A brief interview with Tom C. Hunley

First Level

It was 7-11. It was 1983. It was Donkey Kong. I had just
one hammer and the one life and my one and only girl
was imaginary and had been captured by a gorilla
who taunted me by beating his chest. For her I was
ready to smash every barrel, leap over every ball of fire.
My friends and I had just defeated a fleet of aliens,
blown a field of asteroids to bits. Our quarters spent,
we wandered outside, no girls around except the ones
in skin mags on the rack who would make us cry
if we weren’t too shy to look. An older boy outside
offered us each a special cigarette that would take us
someplace far away. We had new muscles that
had never picked anyone up, carried anyone off.
We had nests of hair that had never been anywhere.

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Will You Take This?

When your faces dive into each other as if bobbing for apples
you forget to breathe. You gasp for air that is barely there
and floating away seems like the only way to hold your ground.
When you gasp, both silence and song grasp both your throats at once.
When silence marries song, they spend their Honeymoon
stitching together the lost first language.
When the lost first language revives at last in your ravenous mouths
your teeth fall out and dentists replace them with arrowheads.
When your words come out arrow-straight
call them obsolete. Replace them with bullets.
Declare bullets obsolete in a wordless truce
as you grow on each other’s kisses, roots in rain,
until you marry each other or tear one another apart.

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No Wonder the Advice Columnist is Bitter

The night dies in us each time
dawn selects from an array of pinks
and sends them sprawling, directionless
as children at recess. What to do? […]


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Tom C. Hunley has published over 400 poems in journals such as Atlanta Review, Crab Orchard Review, Exquisite Corpse, Green Hills Literary Lantern, National Poetry Review, Paddlefish, River Styx, TriQuarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Writer. His latest collection is Here Lies (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2018). He’s under contract with McFarland for a second edition textbook, The Poetry Gymnasium

Read More: A brief interview with Tom C. Hunley