Movie Theater

Stained seats from a plethora of spilt drinks,

that stain might even be melted butter,

surely the brown stuff is melted chocolate.

The floor squelches when you walk,

adhering to your shoe, trying to take it from you.

Faded movie posters promote the blockbusters

come and gone. Dust layers the counter where

butter and sugary sweets used to reside. Sugar to dust,

almost the same but different in color and taste.

Actors still smile where kids ran laughing

the happiness their movies brought still lingers here.

Coffee Shop Vignette

A bell rings softly as the door pushes inward,

outward pushes the smell of bittersweet coffee.

The typical soft jazz of a coffee shop wafts

through the air alongside smells of savory food.

Buzzing chatter underlines the music

with the soft whir of espresso machines adding to

the symphony of the cafe.

Voices talk from walls where no bodies sit

a collection of the conversations absorbed

like the coffee stains the barista hates.

The large glass windows reflect back the

faces of colleges students that haunted the tables.

Rusty circular stains mark the growth

of coffee groups that grew and shrank,

through the years.

Read more "ZAC VAN PELT – 2 POEMS"



Oh hateful man what happened to you

with more money than some countries’ treasuries

the pick of beautiful women yachts the best beluga

golden faucets in resorts Scottish golf courses

why are you an angry sloth hateful man wearing

wispy ginger hair so fine a baby could coo

you have blonde children retinues of lackeys

waiting on the next word wave escaping

your thin lips hateful man what attracted

you to green and silver paper why do you need

to steal other people’s money why do you admire

Mussolini did you smile with your parents

what did they do wound your bilious psyche

when they favored your brother why did you throw

tantrums like rancid onions when friends didn’t remain

friends when your mother shipped you

to military school when you listened to bullies

who taught you platitudes when your father

gave you only a million to build empires

when you cavorted in that Moscow hotel

do you remember the time you told your first lie

and everybody believed it and you did too

and lied so much you forgot the lies

why don’t you love people pets your children

did you see your destination as bankruptcies

and successes battled like angry twins

hateful man what makes you happy

the Aurora Borealis on Christmas day

a herd of zebra galloping over the Serengeti plains

the rarest stamp or a ringer for the Mata Hari

what is it hateful man making you tell beauties

whose pussies you grab I want you hateful man

do you love anybody in the red depths of your heart’s

dark caves dear hateful man when you fire sycophants

do you feel better after crushing their souls

hateful man as you eat Big Macs on the airplane

watching Wall Street do you have a Manhattan

of revenge to soothe your throat crying

when you sleep in your elephant satin pajamas

in your dark tower and wake up after three hours

to stew on the toilet pressing the phone’s power

button stalking the internet where your tribe

reads your tweets and you spend hours thumbing

insults so you feel better for a Washington

second and don’t care what the pundits think

because you’ll show how lofty you

are but hateful man you know that’s not true

do you ever think yourself evil as a bus

of snakes destined for a Mexican village

hateful man you think you’re greater than Alexander

the Great more brilliant than Einstein than Madame

Curie than the mathematician with the highest IQ

in history do you believe it how long can you

deceive yourself but you’re aware as an anteater

do you believe you’ll escape Karma’s chokehold

dreaming of Hitler of Rasputin of Manson

don’t you worry your minions might see

the hateful man you are because you’ve forgotten

you’re not blessed yes you’ve eluded the Gorgon

dodged a lunatic’s bullets because madmen

don’t kill madmen hateful man loneliest man

on earth no the man who’ll destroy you

hateful man one you fear and despise

not the man with long legs distant gaze

and grey suit walking halls of justice

followed by other men no he’s not that man

collecting facts but you are hateful man you




Broken festering wounds

deep within shins that try to crawl through it.

The glass shatters from a ceiling that

surrounds, encases, allows


to see





The dome may be broken

but there are other things to



scream at.

To be consumed by the glass

to fall into the glass

to drag an already limp and outrageous body through the glass

is only just one victory.

No one can stop at just one victory

because to stop at just one victory

is as bad as giving up.

These shards come from

cracked vanities

ruined window panes

curved glass domes.

Devour these shards

swallow them

slice your throat open

with ragged edges.

Embed them

into your stomach walls.

Splinter them off into smaller pieces,

digest the fragmented remains.

Pierce your skin

and let it be known

that you don’t mind blood

pooling at your feet.



Kiss It All Away     


I crumble under the weight of your wings

as you leap from the balcony and find that you’re only human

and the two of us fall.


There are gods burning in the fire place

painfully smiling through bruised lips

I’ve got runs in my hose from their fingernails; they need us, too.


What a disappointment it was to discover

that you still have one foot stuck in the real world

and it’s the foot that counts.



Responding to Facebook

“What’s on your mind?”  The white and blue screen asks.

What’s on my mind?  Money.  The cost of hospital-grade tubing that is in your nose when you wake up.

What’s on my mind?  The cost of honesty.  I’ve been racking up hopes and dreams, only to find expiration dates, boundaries, and under used gym cards.

What’s on my mind?  The relief that this moment will disappear from feeds by worthwhile-thirty.  This one is for the boring generations, STILL (italicized) on Facebook.

What’s on my mind?  I am too comfortable with this format of communication; and I miss coming home late, and thinking that “I’ll just be tired,” like when I wrote that letter the night before surgery, or on the eves of confessions past.

What’s on my mind? She walked by the fish tank…but she didn’t even tap on the glass. 

But what’s really on my mind…I don’t remember



Look on the Bright Side


Yes, she broke your heart.

Yes, I got that.

But let’s be honest

There are some good points,

And why not focus on them?


The top is on the toothpaste tube

For the first time in two years

And there are no long hairs in the sink.


The checkbook balances

For the first time in two years

And the lights you turn off stay off.


The caps are on the soda bottles and milk bottles

For the first time in two years

And there are no pizza boxes on the couch.


The medicine cabinet door is closed

For the first time in two years

And your T-shirts she slept in are off the floor.


The movie DVD’s are in the right boxes

For the first time in two years

And there are no bras and panties on the rugs.


The dresser drawers close and nobody hijacked your tweezers

For the first time in two years

And your décor is not candy wrappers.


So suck it up.

Get a porn library

And a puppy.




Reapers of the Water

The nets newly tarred
and the family arranged
on deck-Mass has started.

The archbishop in
his golden
cope and tall miter, a resplendent

figure against an unwonted background, the darting
silver of water,
green and lavender

of the hyacinths, the slow
movement of occasional
boats. Incense floats

up and about the dripping gray
moss and the sound of the altar bell
rings out. Automatically all who have stayed

on their boats drop to their knees with the others
on shore. The prelate, next taking up his sermon,
recalls that the disciples of Christ were drawn

from the fishermen
of Galilee. Through
the night, at the lake, they cast in vain.

Then He told
them to try once more, and lo!
the nets came heavily loaded…. Now

there will be days when
you, too, will
cast your nets without success-be not

discouraged; His all-seeing eye
will be on you. And in the storm, when

your boat tosses like a thin
leaf, hold firm….
Who knows whose man will be next? Grand’mére

whose face describes how three of hers-
her husband and those two boys-had not returned,
now looks toward

her last son-
it is a matter of time. The prelate dips his gold aspergillum

into the container of holy water
and lifts it high. As the white
and green boats

pass, the drops fall on the scrubbed
decks, on the nets, on the shoulders
of the nearest ones, and they move up

the long waterway.
The crowds watching and waving:
the Sea Dream, the Normandie,

the Barbara Coast, the Little Hot Dog, the God
Bless America
, the Madame of Q.-

racing past the last tendrils
of the warm pudding
that is Louisiana.


This poem originally appeared in James Tate’s first collection of poetry entitled The Lost Pilot (Yale University Press, 1967). Here’s a recording of Tate introducing and reading the poem (minute 5:27). In the introduction, Tate says this poem is about the blessing of a shrimp fleet he saw in Thibodeau, Louisiana. Here are some fleet blessings so you can add his intended imagery to the unintentional images that may also be spurred on in your mind by his lines. Long live JAMES TATE!