J.P. Grasser



Prairie mantra: Seize the Carp: when in summer,
when shoulder-deep in ponds, when algae blooms
laurel sun-warm scalps, when trident-armed
and playing Poseidon, when the two-pronged
pride of life-taking was easy to swallow,
when forked-tongue feeder streams channeled
their power into us. There, wonder flashed first,
and grief came as thunder-reply, when the carp
seized on the graveled banks, unready to die.
Prairie manna: Rattlers can Fly: when raptors
seize them from sunning-sands, when wound
around barb-wire fences to pin their writhe
and shimmy. When flesh becomes crown,
when metal-thorns are nails, when suffer
is the stuff of neither heart nor rapture
but flat, plain, and part of life. When beaks
make way for bugs, when there is no difference
between discarded carcasses, red teeth,
and rusted barbs. When wildflowers well up
beneath these deaths, and blood remakes sand
into earth.

Surface Tension

Lure-struck the pond-skin split, concentric
circlets rippled out, droplets jumping-jacked
Up & back / Up & back—Ten & Two / Ten
then follow through. Wait ‘til rings run up
the bank, little lapping little dogs, Doppler
loudness, radar bleeps. After the war, it’s all
he seed. Someone stitch this rift in water,
remagnify covalent bonds. When he dead
we fished him too, packed them cheeks
with Redman chew. Through his teeth he spit
broad casts, squad coasts, flick that spoon
clear to Rome. Cottonwood seed gauze
up the water. Mayflies fly down our trousers.
Underwater, magnified, one third larger. Light
that’s bent, bent like Elvis, rays ride waves
and settle in. Rend these reams of stacked up
kindle, burn the barn til it painted red.
Firebomb the lily-pond, plough table-salt
into the chest. Pointbar, cutbank, and thresher,
highway bypass and coronary, all squirm up
the whip-lash back Nebraska.

The Blues

Something wicked that way hummed: sub-aural
patterning, a spattering of solid chords
set free in the lime-lit haze of that joint

you never much liked. It’s the weird aura,
you’d said, barely audible over the cords’
persistent surge, the voice leaping to join

the heartbeat-rhythm, the strings picked and plucked
by the pricking of their thumbs. Your blue streak
came out of the black: something that night prayed

for a fight, and to be fought back. What luck
that up north, the Aurora—burled like teak,
blaring with a wan timbre—became prey

and predator, chasing its blue tail through
the night, cold as a gas-stove’s pilot light.


JPGrasserJ.P. Grasser’s poetry explores the diverse regions he has called home, most insistently his family’s fish hatchery in Brady, Nebraska. He studied English and Creative Writing at Sewanee: The University of the South and received his MFA in poetry from Johns Hopkins University. His work appears or is forthcoming from Ecotone, Salt Hill, West Branch Wired, The Journal, Cream City Review, Ninth Letter Online, and Redivider, among others. www.jpgrasser.com