Victor Clevenger

downtime in iraq

i heard stories
that the madman had
the most beautiful creatures
living somewhere within those waters
so every other day before breakfast
i would tie a string to a tree
throw sweet bagels attached to fishing hooks
into the death-pool-drainage lake
that trickled slowly
like lanced lesions from
the spread wide thighs
of the mighty tigris
after weeks waiting
i finally hooked the jawbone of something beautiful
struggled with its resistance
but eventually gained surrender
holding it in my homesick hands
i almost felt the urge to cry
i remember telling myself
don’t do it & toughen up
who cries during wars anyway
with the urge growing stronger
i released the fish &
stared straight into the sun without glasses
just to have an excuse
i wasn’t tough enough to hold back tears
but i found ways around it
we all did & i’m sure
we all still do


When not traveling highways across America, Victor Clevenger spends his days in a Madhouse and his nights writing poetry. He lives with his second ex-wife, and together they raise six children in a small town northeast of Kansas City, MO. Selected pieces of his work have appeared in print magazines and journals around the world, as well as at a variety of places online. In 2017, Victor was nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology, as well as the Pushcart Prize. His most recent published collections of poetry include a split book with Tom Farris titled Ginger Roots Are Best Taken Orally (EMP, 2018) and A Finger in the Hornets’ Nest (Red Flag Poetry, 2018).