Belmont Avenue – The Unsolved Departure of the Common X [Poetry]

These are poems by Lois Marie Harrod.

Belmont Avenue

Youngstown, Ohio

At ten in the morning, the day I failed

my driving test, shifting that big black Buick,

every poem should have a Buick, shifting

that big black Buick from first to second

in the middle of an intersection, stupid,

said the licensing officer, the big beefy

testing officer sitting beside me, dangerous, every poem

should have a danger, don’t you know

when the clutch is in, the car is out

of control? and I didn’t. I can’t pass you, he said,

wiping his beefy forehead

with his beefy hand, every poem

should have something beefy in it,

as if he had been in real danger

in the middle of that Belmont Avenue intersection—

not another car in sight

not even a cell phone in my hand,

just skinny little me in that beefy Buick.

I was sixteen.


Wysiwyg—What you see is what you get

It is not difficult

to stage the visible,

to prevent the clatter

within the chatter,

that long history

of sleight-of and off-hand

hand, the Cro-magnon

pointing to the hills

why don’t you believe me?

I don’t want your cave—

as he grabs the ax handle

of his brother,

Or at the Office

of Refugee Resettlement

one bureaucrat encourages

a pregnant teen

to refuse abortions,

and then

another refuses her

the right to remain.

No mi cuerpo

mis derechos,

No my body,

my rights visible.

At book club

a friend demands,

Why all this subtext

and hidden meaning?

Why can’t we just enjoy

what is there?

as if what is there

is there.

The Unsolved Departure of the Common X

It had been a long night on the beat

and a long walk back to the tall house

where the gumshoe took himself to sleep.

And when he stumbled in, he crawled

to bed without noticing the rope

with a name scrawled  

in its loops. The practical joke

of her goodbye? The diary copped?

She had been gone fourteen tears

and still had a secret under wraps.

How else explain her perfume floating

down the hemp. He sat down, caressed

the scrabble and pulled out the sentence.

“Dear Joe,” it began. “Dear Joe . . .”


Not as cream slips into coffee

or oil onto water—with or without mixing

but as one day becomes the next.

It is morning. We eat the same

yogurt and blueberries

the same almonds for breakfast

and the spoon slips into the mouth

and the food slips down the throat,

one thing becomes another,

the double XX’s turn on and off,

one day I am my father

worrying about salvation,

the next my mother

anguishing over the dirty sink.

Where is the Clorox

to rinse it all away?

Who is offensive, who is not,

our affections skid

like someone on unsteady skates,

what did I feel when I first loved you?

Who knows what remains,

what slides away.

Lois Marie Harrod’s 17th collection Woman is forthcoming from Blue Lyra in December 2019. Her Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 from Five Oaks; her chapbook And She Took the Heart appeared in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. A Dodge poet, she is published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton and at The College of New Jersey. Links to her online work:


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