lew watts



In Argentine tango, where one person’s foot sweeps the other’s foot across the floor and places it without losing contact; when perfect, it is not possible to discern who is leading or who is following.

The feet lock like two poles of a magnet,
moments held in time, joined at the shoe-hip,
tempting each to move before the magic
slide, as though they were tied by strands of music.

Perhaps he’s helping her across a field
of mines, her mind lost in loss and thought,
or forcing his will until her body yields,
or simply saving the precious bones of her foot.

That’s what he’d like to think, but she is the one
who’s dragging the ego’d foot of a fool towards her,
pulling his leathered lap-dog lust by its tongue
as she leads his love-blinded shoe to water.

first published: The Raintown Review

in Lessons for Tangueros

last day of Lent—
the scent of pears
on the vicar’s breath

home from war
we ease out
the champagne corks

thesaurus search:
so few words
for goodbye

a gypsy’s song -
métro riders turn
to black windows

Venus rising …
I linger a little longer
in the hot tub

Suffer the little children

The young seismologist insists on giving his report in person.

They had been driving on a remote, dirt track and had just crested a hill. As they descended, they passed a man on a heavily loaded bicycle. Caught in their draft, he wavered and fell before running into the bush. They stopped the car.

Attached to the bicycle was a rolled up carpet that had started to unravel. They cut the coarse binding and unrolled the rug. Inside was a child—they believe it was a boy, but the roasting was too severe.

I give him a week’s leave of absence.

          no passing …
          fresh wildflowers
          on the roadside crosses

Fanny Pack

I learn it is worn around the waist, perched on the buttocks. In other words it’s a bum bag, something for carrying small things, like fags. I have an urge to tell her that where I come from the word fanny is slang for vagina, but I remain silent—some things are better left unsaid.

              oysters the taste of the sea in her hair

Welsh Harmony

I remember sitting in the front row of assembly for months before I knew all the words to Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. The gathered school sang one hymn every morning, many of them in Welsh, but I think it was this masterpiece of Bach’s that I first put to memory. In the early weeks I sat muted like others in my class, but eventually I was able to sing the words that I had heard repeatedly. In that first year, at 6 years of age, I heard the full harmonies of the school choir, but the closest to my ear were the children of the year above who sang the simple melody an octave higher than the piano.

            first love -
            the girl beside me smells
            of soap

After a year I took my place in that same second row, now confidently singing basic melody but hearing clearly the altos and trebles of the older children in the row behind. It seemed obvious even then that there was a resonance between these rows, even though at the time I didn’t know the word harmony.

In my third year the row behind was now the senior class of the school and each morning I would hear the descant of the girls acting as a counterpoint to the slow baritones of the boys. One year later, it was my turn to drop my chin to my chest and let my lowered voice flow across the children before me.

In my four years I neither saw the text of a hymn nor a sheet of music; one learned through listening to the row behind, as many have done throughout the years.

            each fall the same call
            of the surf

3 Haibun