My first college teacher of poetry, in 1978, was Victor Contoski, a professor at the
Behind the lips
teeth are waiting
Like a man with a weapon
Waits in a dark alley.
They come down on meat
like a lead pipe
on the head of a woman.
3. Sometimes in dreams
they wither and turn soft
like rotten cactus.
They curl up and fall out
like men refusing to fight
an unpopular war.
4.If you are beaten long enough and hard enough
your teeth will be knocked out.
Then you can use them as chessmen:
Front teeth, pawns;
Back teeth, pieces.
5. They line up in the mouth
like soldiers for inspection.
Ever since I can remember
they have surrounded the tongue,
reminding what is soft
of what is hard.
(© 1973 by Victor Contoski. Reprinted with permission.)
At the time, Contoski told me that he knew the beaten men from section 4, from the Cold War days in
This poet’s opus includes an historic perspective, such as his poem “The Sack,” which has sections dedicated to
rode out onto the prairies
the sun has been going down.
A towering cottonwood sways in the breeze
Rocking rocking the cradle in its branches.
The hero’s eyes turn glassy.
His hand waves vaguely
toward something in his breast
as his knees buckle.
The giant coming down the beanstalk
feels it start to sway beneath him.
He looks down and sees Jack
with a silly grin and a hatchet
looming suddenly larger and larger
as the sun over
goes down and down and out.
(© 2000 by Victor Contoski. Reprinted with permission.)