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Nathan Baker
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Preacher

 

by Nathan Baker



Folks on the street called him Preacher
He was a loner, a social misfit bounced
One too many times on his head as a kid,
He had his good qualities and his bad.

Well past his fortieth birthday when our
Paths first crossed back in the early eighties
He was lean and rock solid in physique
An old infantry soldier, he stayed in shape.

He had studied for ministry after service
Obtaining a degree in Biblical studies,
And once thumped leather with black suits;
Still preached a bit on street corners

When he wasn't praying over winos
Down at the Gospel mission on Central,
Or casting demons out of the possessed
Selling favors for dimes downtown

Preacher was good with his hands and
Quick with a knife too, he was aging a bit
So he toted a hawk-bill in his right hip pocket,
An old electrician's knife, honed razor sharp

Preacher was shepherd of the street people
He saved his first soul one night when thugs
Tried to dissect a lamb for anthropological study
Poor little lost one was dumpster diving

Seeking pasture behind a lounge on the boulevard
It was a territorial thing else the thugs had a real
Liking for stale peanuts and moldy nacho chips
Because they were about to get busy when

Preacher walked around the corner talking loudly
To himself about serpents and the Garden of Eden;
Words rolling off his tongue like a rock star on acid
Stars melted into a red flash of color as his knife

Scored across flesh whittling deep to bone
Two of four, in orders to save his one lost lamb,
Preacher did what he did without remorse.
Later paramedics arrived to cart the men away

Preacher watched from a storm drain culvert
His eyes never leaving the scene until the last
Emergency vehicle had left the area.
He lived like a shadow, part of the river fog.

He spent most of his uptime underground
Cross-Creek cemetery became his duomo.

 


 

 

 

Yokohama Bay

 

Nathan Baker

 

 

Bodysurfing is fun,

But not in an ocean of despair,

Where riptides tend to be forceful

And the currents undertow 

 

Can easily drown a weary swimmer.

It’s sort of like spitting into a strong wind

Except your body in this case is the saliva

And salty water the wind which can

 

Hurl even the strongest swimmer

Like a rag doll beneath its torrential force

Pinning rag to reef’s bottom, as the swimmer

Becomes the proverbial donkey’s tail.

 

 But with ass kicked to near death

 It’s still possible to look

Up and find gold glimmering

On the water’s blue surface.

 

 

 

 

Willow Street

 

Nathan Baker

 

Folks doubting

The existence of demons

Should visit Willow Street.

Runs beneath an interstate

Highway system of evil

Built a house there one summer

An urban ministry of sorts

Didn’t lead any souls to Jesus

But watched a few crackheads

Fly off the deep end

And wind up with swine

At the bottom of a cliff

Empty vessels shattered

And hope all gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha’s Voodoo Doll

 

Nathan Baker

 

Bits of his hair and fingernails

Stuffed inside a doll she’d fashioned

From the arm of his favorite suit

Doll’s head was wrapped with a photo

 

Taken of him in better days,

He was smiling in the picture

But his smile didn’t last for very long

As Martha began to mutter a strange

 

Language in a voice even stranger

Then to scream, a high pitched wail, and to

Frantically poke the doll through in frenzy

With long silver needles of steel

 

Again and again pounding with fierceness

Until doll’s pinstripe suit was shredded

And its photo image of a face pierced

Into a blur of hair and fingernail cuttings

 

I didn’t think much of her tirade

She’d had her heart broken before

Blowing off steam is a good thing

It keeps the kettle from exploding.

 

Then there was a knock at the door, but

Before I could get up from my chair, it opened.

He stood half naked in the lamplight

Face a slur of dried blood and spittle

 

Confusion flooded his swollen eyes as

He tried to speak but only grunted through lips

Torn and battered bruised purple and bleeding

He dropped to his knees on the bare hardwood

 

Settling he manages to write the words

Help me using his finger for a pen

And blood for ink before passing

Into unconsciousness on the floor

 

Stepping over her jilting lover, Martha smiled and

Tossed a handful of pinstripe cloth into the fireplace

I awoke to the eerie smell of burnt hair and cooking flesh

And a sound liken to the dying squeal of a slaughtered hog

 

 

 

Nathan is a poet living in the mountains of Tennessee. His most recent work has appeared at The Blue House, The Orange Room Review, Blue Fifth Review, Covert Politics, and Yellow Mama.

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