Archive for the Justin Hyde Category

Four poems by Justin Hyde

Posted in Justin Hyde with tags on January 3, 2017 by Scot

eating chili with my father

two strangers
managing small talk
after decades of estrangement.
he tells me wasps
built a nest in his old wool air-force jacket
out in the garage. had to
throw it away.
but he cut the buttons off
and saved them.
i look up from the kitchen table
out the sliding glass doors
to the old blue garage.
i ask if he remembers twenty years ago
when i stood in there
fixing a flat tire on my bicycle.
he came up from behind
asked if i needed help. i told him
i never wanted his help
with anything
for the rest of my life.
i remember, he says, that was a hard boot
but i earned it.
i tell him i was wrong. i’ve had
so many things wrong in this life.
we’ve never hugged
or told each other i love you.
i lean over
and kiss his cheek.
he stiffens. but doesn’t
pull away.


my father
tried to teach me
the value of a dollar

and hard work
but my mother
was a soft touch

a real mark

before the age of seven
i mastered
playing them off one another

they’d go
into the other room
yell under their breath

he’d throw his hands up
and go to the bar

i’d get
whatever i wanted
from mom
if she suddenly
sprouted a back-bone

i’d throw a fit
tell her i hated her
drive her to tears
and then get
what i wanted

those were my blue-prints
on the kind-hearted women
of the upper

four degrees in iowa

the young man
walking down the sidewalk
he has to hold them up
with his left hand

and white-underwear
in the bitter wind

happens to be black

my brain does not flash thug
or danger

i’ve got more solstice
than that

we pass each other

-eldridge cleaver
-malcom x
-hundreds of black men
who’ve come through the halfway house
on my mind

i know
you’re just trying to carve identity
stamp original swagger
into the ashes of a country
that stole everything else

but seriously

check yourself bro

there’s more creative ways
to buck the man

than hobbling around
like a fucking clown.


for h

to be inside
a truly gorgeous woman
moaning in your ear
an ancient oracle
driving you on like a racehorse
stop for a moment
gaze upon this impossible scene
smile so broad
your ears join together on top of your head
come back
the oracle commands
cupping her hand behind your neck
they can take your legs
and your arms
strap you in a wheelchair
and feed you cornstarch
three times a day
so long as
you get to keep this memory
you’ve already

11/9/16 7:37am by Justin Hyde

Posted in Justin Hyde with tags , on November 21, 2016 by Scot


how’s it going?

one of my male co-workers
asks another male co-worker
two offices over


he bellows
in derisive

as in

we almost elected a woman

a brilliant
if flawed woman
who knows
how to get shit

shattered glass

and maybe
just maybe
she would have started
holding us accountable
for a couple hundred years
of unabsolved


we elected a cipher
who has pimped narcissism
to an eponymous

a walking bromide
who at seventy years old
still barks
at kites


we sure dodged

that bullet.

Three poems by Justin Hyde

Posted in Justin Hyde with tags on November 7, 2016 by Scot


i no longer
pluck you like flowers
and lock you away
in that empty space
inside me

hunt you like dope
regard you like dope
use you up like dope

even as i
lean in
at the dog park

filling out a pair of jeans
to melt my brain
into fondue

i don’t try to lick her soul

don’t ask for her number

don’t take
any sort of spider stance

as she tells me
of a boyfriend
who plays video games all day
and never texts her goodnight

the alcoholic father
she lives with

the drug addled sister
and a three year old nephew
in a locket
near her heart

she is ripe
to be locked
in an empty space

i whistle
for my dog

shake her hand

and walk

blairstown pears

uncle denny
worked at a factory
in bell plaine.
he watched nascar on tv
and golfed when he could.
i never saw him angry
or heard him talk sideways about anyone.
he always had a smile
always did what aunt holly said.
every summer
he and aunt holly took me and my six cousins
on an overnight trip
to the amusement park in des moines.
i think he actually enjoyed it.
i judged him simple steady and banal
in my twenties
and never sought his advice.
my son met him a few times
before a back-ache turned cancer.
all he remembers
is uncle denny handing him a pear
from the tree in their back-yard.
blairstown pears he calls them
dad let’s go get some blairstown pears.
aunt holly sold the house
and moved to a condo in cedar rapids.
the pear tree is gone. replaced
by an extension
of the driveway.
uncle denny is still there.
thirty-seven steps from grandpa fiester
on the south hill
of the blairstown cemetery.




38, up in the air again, like a plastic sack

my eyes

draw bead
on 25 year olds
low-cut dress
close down the bar
plan a life

my heart

locks in
on 45 year olds
surgery scars
and wine

my head

is a pinprick decibel
behind the clouds

the time is not ripe
stay home
mend wounds
walk the dog
go to bed

is what i think
it said

as i pulled
my cowboy boots

into the night.

Three Poems by Justin Hyde

Posted in Justin Hyde with tags on January 28, 2015 by Scot

walking around the farmer’s market with my son

in a black hat
standing on the corner
playing dylan’s
blowin’ in the wind


we forget things

like seeing dylan
in concert
fourteen years ago
at the iowa state fair

whole decades

go fallow
in our back pockets:

eighteenth birthday
alone at midnight
riding your bicycle across town
to the porn shop

carving a woman’s name
into a gazebo
in mount pleasant iowa

my own father and i
taking long walks
from the trailer park
to the a&w
across the highway

we didn’t even
talk really

i’d just hold his hand
trying to mimic
his long stride

like my son

right now.

our next door neighbor at the trailer park

had two cats
and a picture of john denver
on her
living room wall

she was
the only woman
i knew
bigger than my mother

i used to feed her cats
when she went to florida
to visit her mother

when i was older
i mowed her lawn

we moved out of the trailer park
when i was twelve

didn’t see her again
until the night of my wedding reception
at the top of 801 grand

who the fuck-
who the fuck-
is that!
my wife
seethed in my ear
as i dropped
a shot of wild turkey
with my uncle from tennessee

large old woman
straight up
purple moo-moo
and slippers
had just shuffled in
with a walker

after a few
tense interrogatories
with my mother

found out
she made copies of the wedding invitation
and passed them out
to various totems
from my past
my wife
was too gobsmacked
and speechless
to be mad

i thought it was
the greatest stroke of genius
and caprice
i’d ever seen
from my drug addled mother

the dj
only had one
john denver tune

play it twice
i told him

slowly leading debbie
out to the dance floor
by her hand.



another dead indian

was a bike mechanic
at michael’s cyclery.
my first day as an apprentice
he told me about his last job
delivering luxury cars
for john elway’s dealership in colorado.
i could tell he was trying to impress me
so i just nodded and listened.
one of the salesmen walked by:
don’t forget to tell him why you got fired,
he shot in a mocking tone.
chris didn’t tell me
just clammed up
didn’t say anything rest of the day.
found out
he was drunk on the job
drove a brand new cadillac
off the road into a culvert.
this was his song
starting with the army at seventeen.
he’d drink himself out of opportunity
then michael would let him come back and wrench
until he refilled the barometer.
couple weeks after i started
he got on as a cook
at whiskey river.
that didn’t hold.
someone set him up
at the casino on his reservation
picking up trash. a guest
found him out back
sitting against a green power box
bottle between his feet.
michael closed the shop for the day
we all rode our bicycles
fifty miles from ames
to mesquaki
for the funeral.
i didn’t have the word
in my vocabulary at the time.
elders. family. children.
none of us
seemed very sad
or surprised.

absentee ballot by Justin Hyde

Posted in Justin Hyde with tags on October 26, 2014 by Scot

forget disgust

or outrage

i can’t even muster
for politics:

one bruised pecan
in a peanut suit
versus another bruised pecan
in a peanut suit

playground fights
have more nuance
and passion

any actual candidate
with human frailty
and novel ideas

is relegated
to a handful of lawn signs
and ten minute segments
on public radio

the whole process
has been monetized
like a double-cheeseburger

maybe the ghost
of che guevara
will set sail
and land
in baton rouge


i don’t even
have the heart

to finish

this poem.

Three Poems by Justin Hyde

Posted in Justin Hyde with tags on October 5, 2014 by Scot

a little truth to tattoo on your wrist for when the water boils

if she leaves you
for another man

it’s not going to be

–because he’s 6’3 instead of 5’8
–swings two handfuls of rope
–has a more poignant physiognomy

–acronyms after his name

–or any other myopic insecurity
conjured by the male mind.

the day she pulls out the scissors
and redacts your world
it’s going to be because

all she ever wanted
was to meet hand in hand
in a field of wildflowers


i just need a little lightness

it feels like i’m always walking on eggshells

she told you
time and again
chance after

but you went ahead and wrung her bone-dry

callused hands

and now she’s out dancing

waist deep

in the wildflowers.

standing in line at the customer service desk of the grocery store to buy a 2 day fishing license

another clerk
opens a window

they split
the line in two

old raw-boned black guy
thin as a broom handle
rolls up
at the back of the second line
leaning on a shopping cart
with one can of soup in it

his turn

calls me over
from the other line
because i’ve been waiting

before i get there
old black guy leans in
says something
to the clerk

i can’t hear
but bundles of white hair
coming out of his nose
are moving fiercely
he points
a finger at her

that gentleman
has been waiting
longer than you,
she says sternly
with a blank face.

i know what this is

i know what you people

is on,
he points his finger again
angrily bumping his shopping cart
into the customer service desk.

i don’t understand
why you’re so upset sir
i was in line before you,
i call out calmly
but firmly.

i know this

i know what

she’s on,
his voice
comes from a place
pushed down
and burning.

let me handle this,
says the off duty cop
stationed behind the
customer service desk.

i mind the law
get my license
and go about my day

he pushes his cart
off to the side
mumbling down
and burn

then he throws
his can of soup
at the clerk


cracks the window
of the manager’s office

and leaves in handcuffs
in the back
of the cop car.


why is that man so angry?

my son
wants to know.

i went to the open mic poetry night in des moines iowa

they came
with their rhymes

pithy rants
societal disses
and playground snaps

they stood there
parroting abstract
bloated commentary

broad sweep
and generalization

all with affectation
and sing-song voices



totally bereft
of soul

there was no blood

no polyps

no bone fragments

no wheeze
and catch of breath
for the reaper’s shadow
standing sentinel

not a one
gambled their heart

they left their
hearts at home
in the bread basket

a hole
where their heart
should be

a stale breeze
through each one

no poets

no poetry

to be found.

two guys speaking french at the truck stop by Justin Hyde

Posted in Justin Hyde with tags on January 24, 2010 by Scot

like i’m at some
paris cafe
out of the
diaries of anais nin
instead of the flying j
in des moines
i have
no clue
what they’re
talking about
but it’s got
mellifluous cadence
warm wax
through deep center
like the wave machine
my last girlfriend
kept in her bedroom.
i could easily
spend the rest of my life
slung low
in a sidewalk cafe
smoking opium laced cigarettes
listening to this language
as the sun
sank below
the arc de triomphe.
but the clock says
my child support payment
of 527.91
is due by
noon tomorrow
and my shift
locked in a pit
with the murderers
and other failed
hustlers of iowa
in exactly
26 minutes.