Issue > Poetry
Rodney Terich Leonard

Rodney Terich Leonard

Rodney Terich Leonard is the author of Sweetgum & Lightning (Four Way Books, 2021). His poems have been published in BOMB, Four Way Review, What Rough Beast and other journals. A Callaloo Fellow, he holds a MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. He resides in Manhattan.

The Music That Learns Us

Facing the blackboard,

the teacher whistles

a melody of marbled tenderness.


intrigue or spook?


in retrospect,

Monday thoughts

of cared-for cashmere

or the end bite

of Sunday's sweet potato.

It simmers & simmers,

the music that learns us;

The Mamas & the Papas

Queen Latifah singing

"California Dreamin."

The ear is nobody's fool.



Hot Metal Cools Slowly into Law

                                          Neither gin
nor its companion elixirs—tonic, rickey, juice, fizz,
soothes like warm air parting the hair,
primping the fades of soldiers stationed
stateside or overseas.

                         Content & wary of rank & reveille
mess halls, protocol & lust,
alongside efforts of spit-shine & conformity,
our natural needs are natural,
sir yes sir   yes sir yes    reports-as-ordered sir.

                         For matters of trick, shade & shadow—
wink & nod, spread the hiss
tilt the blue beret that-a-way.

                          Sing-sing-sing of erasure's thirst—
Keg of August wind, heat in his hips, for once,
a dog-days storm.  Muddy water in my shoes, but see,
it's baptismal to requite someone's swinging-sweep,
another fella's good "get-down."

                          Sing-sing-sing of a time in Roswell, TDY—
He was a major who read Capote & called him Streckfus.
Next to my arm lay his on which prodigious Kansas grew.
Where there is no shame scandal tames its wince.
At parade rest, left foot to the left of the right foot,
I fed my ego a trip to our haunt, the far-end silverleaf oak,
its bark beckoning for both of our backs,
lunar taboo—officer & enlisted waltzing in the lion's den:
If morning's echo says we've sinned,
just touch my cheek before you leave me

                            We also candle & pant in his tent—
                            And it won't matter anyhow

The translatable hush of Clinton's decree:
"Effective immediately,
brave men & women, defenders in peace & war,
fully serve this country stanchioning off your nature
& essence, these fundamental urges & gasps.
Choose your trot, mild, spicy, or hot.
Fuck whomever you choose—
Don't Ask Don't Tell. "

Note from Norphenia: Everything's Out in the Open

Early wiggle of light
more silver than clabbered dreams.

New suits, cowboy boots and Polaroid
sent you packing your hair with Vaseline.

Notches up on mother wit and born fourth.
Between us the pull of secrecy:

hands with which I played adult;
the other-day man with thick thumbs—

those of your father.
I watched you teach and paddle trees

polished your crown of tantrums with spoil:
another tape recorder, another mitt

another book—motherhood's tacit scratch.
Reasons to toot November.


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