Bob Putnam


A Piece of Me

a piece of me
Tomorrow, a part of my body
will be surgically removed.
Not the head or arm or leg,
nothing obvious. I won’t be wearing
a prosthesis, no colostomy bag
to empty or catheter employed.
A radical tonsillectomy,
performed by a robot,
will remove the cancerous tonsil
as well as 2 centimeters of surrounding tissue.
2 centimeters? Hmm?
The width of a nickel,
length of a peanut, diameter
of my wedding ring.
Robotic instruments
will slice away
the lacy flesh then staunch
and cauterize veins and sinew. Cancer’s
expulsion will create
a more spacious place, but the room
will be less interesting
without my tonsil.
Tonsils are unneeded, they say.
For decades kids traded
tonsils for endless orgies of ice-cream.
If it weren’t for the cancer I wouldn’t have traded
mine for anything. For 66 years,
my tonsil has quietly guarded that nostril hole,
inspecting every breath,
protecting me from intruders,
and I’m not going to let it go
into—wherever—without a parade.

Man in Tree

Man in Tree
To have given up
on everything that lies
below you. Darkness
pulled tighter than a shiver. Stars
swaying like clumsy drunks, you
gathered what little was given,
built your fortress from the shattered
branches, stocked up on pine cones, let
your last meal turn to shit bombs.
How distant
the traffic must have looked,
how difficult
the aim.


This bedroom is overcrowded
with brassieres. Some hang loosely
or gather on the chair. The bed post
is a convenient perch,
but most are too tired for such a climb.
They sprawl exhausted, too worn
for the drawer, yet
not quite hampered.
The drudgery of daily affairs
wears elastic.
A shoulder strap limp
without its lovely arm. Clasps,
impossible to reach, now open
to anyone wanting to fiddle with chrome.
One can barely calculate
the capacity of so many empty containers. Leisurely
these lacy undergarments laze upon the carpet
as though it were a beach.
I wonder if they don’t imagine themselves bikinis.
Cups pushed tightly by
what might have been
one’s revolutionary resolve. Or
removed to roam freely,
to dance their semi-separate life of twins.
Though she no longer burns those lacy yokes
designed by men, my moxie wife magically
unsnaps from her daily routine,
then flings that thing like
flippin’ a middle finger to the man.


You know everything about me
—my extraterrestrial life.
Slipping through windows,
curtains couldn’t keep you away—
your wandering eye, your brilliant
light rippling the linoleum, your 
backlit bones racked on hangers.
Even the air bent to your dark gravity.
Owls and hounds, monsters that wailed
from every sticky drawer. What darkness 
escapes you lingers in pockets, lost 
soldiers, dinosaurs forgotten. The lunch money 
mom gave me spent on “Jujubes.”  Sentenced 
to idle hours, in my room, like you, to a night 
without supper. I’ve watched your white lip burn 
at the edge of endless space—thin jaw open, waiting 
for stars to fall. I slept light on a wave of guilt,
arose each night to join you. Together we tagged 
shadows through alleys and empty lots. 
A pearlescent tide over the sleeping lawns, 
we jumped fences, passed through windows,
rolled over the neighbor’s floor, lounged, tasted
the leftovers, and allowed our hungry tongues
to feel how it felt to be home.


She must be having a bad hair day
the way our waitress passes
daggers with each glass. My grown
daughter got my wife’s mojito.
My wife got the Pepsi Light. 
The waitress’s eyes ignite
when I point out the flat
uncarbonated surface of my
Fat Tire beer. She bristles
but fixes it.
Her smile is almost authentic
by the time our entrees are displayed:
salmon laced in wasabi cream sauce, 
crusted tile fish nestled in mango chutney.
There must have been a spice
for rage mixed with hot wasabi.
Out of no where, the woman who
was once my little girl drops words
so hard they nearly break my plate.
I feel a thousand dishes slip:
those warm plates of French toast 
and pancakes, sausages and grits
go up in smoke as though
they’d never happened.
I want to toss the mango chutney,
and show the true flavor of my tongue, but
like the waitress, I know that by tomorrow 
those plates will be cleaned and stored, 
and that a smile, no matter how contrived, 
will be the only way to make it through today.