a wooden line of lovers
like rotting fence posts
each stake more weathered
and hollow than
the previous
until the last
completely broken and
serving no purpose

     — © Rick Baldwin

Jack o’Lantern

When she carved the pumpkin
her hands sunk deep into it
then, as she scooped the flesh,
she thought of the murder–
how the face went soft,
yet wide-eyed and open-mouthed,
the stringy seeds spilling out
onto her dress
as she twisted the knife in;
his body thrusting forward
not expecting the delivery
or that she would fight back,
now a pile of damp pulp
on the old, wood floor was
all that remained to be cleared
before the celebration–
her steady hand putting
flame to the candle,
and placing the toothy head
in front of the house
as a beacon to those who
would come knocking
that night.

     — © Rick Baldwin


Murder at midnight.
Scarlet taillights drape
a bloody sheet over
the Oldsmobile’s
cold, green skin.

Undercover crickets
in the foggy pasture,
like tinnitus in
the night’s ear.

Haggard men hoarding
hate like rare coins,
break for gasoline
then churn up
dust from bald tires.

Tomorrow at the bank,
the agency, the classroom,
the factory, the church
and the precinct
they will call
Jesus a friend.

— © Rick Baldwin


You never asked to
give, nor I to take.
These, our forced cattle
branding at birth.

The advantage was mine.
Wrapped in silken, milky skin,
blur of a glowing world,
my everything.

Next to your crib they planted
a dagger — your destiny
forever affixed to that surgeon’s
edge, never your own.

Cries from my mouth hushed
by the nipple, yours by
syringe, a cold mother
leaving you naked.

Now a grown man, I take
the wheel and drive to your
cell, your home, the land
around your neck.

     — © Rick Baldwin

Sandal Dust

You are the fourth nail
dull, twisted and corroded
piercing the watery heart
pushing through the spine
splintering the wood
delivering the poison like
a Golgotha adder
dancing on the stone and
kicking the crown
Your rituals are performed in
robes dragging the ground
The work of your hands betray
you like a whore bride
The children starve while
you eat the lamb
and lie with the calf
I never knew you.

     — © Rick Baldwin

The Pursuit of Warmth

He pushed the
bent, iron poker
into the coals
the way a man
pushes his words into
a conversation he
knows nothing about.
Mindlessly scooting
the scorching chunks
against each other
like Minnesota Fats at
some volcanic
billiards table.

She placed the
last cigarette
in her lips and lit it
with a strike of
his glare.
Her fingers scraped
the remaining
bite of honey biscuit
breakfast from the
saucer and set it
on her tongue.

“There’s chicken in the
fridge from last night.
I’ll be late again.”

She grabbed her purse
as a cable car passenger
pulls the emergency cord
when going one stop
He clutched the
poker like a

The house smelled
of stale smoke
and country ham
just as he imagined his
grandmother’s kitchen
would have smelled
had she lived past
twenty nine.
“Too damn early,”
he thought.

Fireworks splattered
the air when the poker
smashed into the
smoldering stick.
The front door
slammed and his spit
sizzled as it hit
the ash.

     — © Rick Baldwin