Joe Bolton

Twyckenham Notes
Issue Fourteen
Winter 2021-22

Composition in Red and Gold


Summer, whatever city you want,
and the sun failing tragically westward,
filling that vicinity of sky
with its corporeal nothings,
hues of half-lives so brief
the world can’t hold them—

That magic hour in the movies
when even what doesn’t happen
is narrative enough, and the sea,
reduced to a source of beautiful longing,
darkens, and makes a minor music.


Say Houston: High on Muscatel since the tequila sunrise,
                          Ruby-nosed winos blink to the twilit zenith
                          where office buildings tower, nearly touching,
                          Jesus or money all that’s holding them up.
Say Miami: No sense of a story line,
                          no solution to this uneasiness you feel. . . 
                          —Only the palms gaunt against the horizon
                          like women whose dresses have fallen to the sand;
                          —Only the ovals of sunglasses struck blind,
                          as a boat explodes off Key Biscayne.


Form without color,
color without form,
the variations
in absence of theme.

And a cathedral
lifted in the dawn,
the water’s surface
caught fire at sunset.

That luscious moment:
Loaded brush, white ground.


But to the man driving home from work,
there's nothing lonelier than the line
of cars fanning out onto the freeway
ahead of him, their taillights
wining on and break lights pulsing,
forming one great exodus in the dusk.
And it seems to him the world is all
steel and concrete under the sky’s blood.


Morning: lovers asleep beneath the rust and amber
of a rug hung on the wall.

Ripe fruit shines
in its wooden bowl on the table.

The cardinal flashes briefly in the sunlit window.

JOE BOLTON was born December 3, 1961 in Cadiz, Kentucky. Bolton released two books of poetry: Breckinridge County Suite (The Cummington Press, 1987) and Days of Summer Gone (Galileo Press, 1990). After his death, The University of Arkansas Press released The Last Nostalgia, edited by Donald Justice. The book is still in print. Editors Austin Veldman and David Dodd Lee are working on a collection of Bolton’s previously unpublished work, a Twyckenham Notes and 42 Miles Press collaboration.

Cover image by Lee Miller.
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