“hens staring upward,” by Eric Robert Nolan

I wrote this a few months back; today it is my third entry for the 5-Day Poetry Challenge.  [EDIT: the formatting is fixed!!]


“hens staring upward,” by Eric Robert Nolan



fleeing me so frequently at Atlantic City.

It happens every night now.




over at the slot machine you occupied and only see

some strange man, finer than I am, and industrious.

All the ringing bells announce

his inauguration.

All the flashing lights

strobe his sharper features.

It makes me wake and makes me

artlessly craft a

hard discordant poetry.


Remember Atlantic City?

We took a flight despite its easy drive.

It’s a funny word, “flight.”

It can mean

to seize the sky as the cardinal might

and the hen cannot –

the conquest, the flashing red ascent to sky and space.

Or it can mean departure,

as one escapes from another.




three times a week

I am at that strange and nameless airport in my sleep

where the planes will not take flight.

High white walls vault up.

The hangars all are locked and vacant.

Clocks speed backward.

Incoherent porters

clutch and curse at suitcases.

The bathrooms smell like beer.


Other would-be passengers

harbor nascent aneuryisms.

Children chatter like hectic apes.

Their fathers all are drunk, their mothers

suffer black and scandalous sudden miracles in the airport lounge,

each reaching orgasm

at the taste of stale sandwiches.

Convulsing, their eyes roll back

Their slow moans hasten into screams,

Their slim arms raised, but

Indolent husbands with rictus grins

will only clutch at their jackets,

at hidden iron flasks.


All the long lines lead

only to exits.

All the flight announcements

are harshly lit in dead and inscrutable languages:

strange Aramaic,

or Latin’s various precursors:

embittered early Germanic and

jumbled Etruscan.

Only two words are clear:



I need to fly to you.

I need to see you in person but

the attendants in my nightmare all

are comatose at the counters.

Sleeping pilots sag in chairs.

In an airport bar,

the dead slouch over snifters.

A bartender is bones.

Down a white corridor

A stewardess in sing-song voice

will wrongly remember a verse and reduce

Dante to gibberish.

Shakespeare is made as profane

as a syphilitic kiss.

On her lips, Eliot

becomes a barking dog.

My ticket is illegible –

its scrawled words

read like the bray of an ass,

or my own words.


You left me once.

Now stay

in the various safe and certain places free of sadness found

in the attention of better men.

Please, Audrey.


It was human for you to leave me once

But cruel for you to do so

over and over and over in my dreams.

Upon waking I can only console

myself with stilted meter

and the misspelled names of cities.




unsaved by my similes,

mere alliteration and unmeasured verse in an amateur’s awkward

clutch of unkempt metaphors,

the thinly veiled and even conscious

failed emulation of Auden,

the maudlin, the guttural hen

aspiring to such song as only the cardinal is capable.




words to me are now familiar nocturnes.

Stars will nightly light your verbs.

Every waning moon will arc

over your exact nouns and careful platitudes,

Your eloquence in leaving me,

The precision in “goodbye.”

The flashing rebuke in the narrowing blue

of your eyes is concise.

The blue-black and deepening, freezing dark violet

of heaven will always observe your departure,

your ordered logic.

Its witness is the vacuum.

Its witness is the endless expanse of space.




but my words

are only hens with dull black eyes –

hens staring upward –

beholding the sky and its occasional

darting scarlet of cardinals in flight.




but my words

are only untidy, unmannered motifs –

as devoid of hope or order as

feral children in the snow, starving in a March forest.


(c) Eric Robert Nolan 2015


Photo credit: “Helsinki-Vantaa Airport departure hall 2, international terminal,” self-published work by  Antti Havukainen, via Wikimedia Commons



2 thoughts on ““hens staring upward,” by Eric Robert Nolan”

  1. Incredible!! A student of l, or fellow poet coud have a field day with this piece. The structure of the poem itself works brilliantly, even if by chance, with the subject matter; and the matter itself! It’s rather a rush to read. It’s a…of course, a flight of the surreal. And it’s commentary on a range of things: from the dilemma of trying to reconcile dreams and drifting and geography and alienation to the art of writing poetry. Can’t believe this one hasn’t appeared elsewhere before.

    Liked by 1 person

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