Certain Windows

Certain Windows is Dan Burt's second chapbook collection.
It includes poems, sequences and the title prose, a vivid memoir evoking a harsh formative world. Among others, the poet's father comes alive here and in the poems, a powerful, hard and sympathetic figure with the wisdom of the man of action.

Death Mask

(LKB, 1917-2008)


I would have cast a death mask from her head
Cooling in a bed ringed by surviving kin
If plaster of Paris drying on shrunken
Skin, dull black buttons that had been eyes
And bared grey gums could model havoc
Ninety years had wrought upon a beauty.
But how we ruin others leaves no mark
To be traced. Fixing her husband's family
Dinner bequesthed no scars to Procne's face.

Head of William BlakeI took a twelve inch square of putty-coloured
Construction paper, drew a pear, inverted,
Eight inches long, four wide for cheeks to flare
Made marks for spud nose, a Bacon mouth,
Wisps of white hair, spite lines, spots,
Scissored the outline, scraped fascia from frame
Like spittle from sere lips, but I'm no artist
With stroke and scumble to express the natural
History of families in a screaming rictus.

I turned the womb shape over and wrote how
My heels rucked the kitchen rug as she dragged
Me out at five to fight a bully, and watched;
How smart she looked, fresh from the hairdresser,
Made up and gloved to shop, after she dropped
Her eight-grade butcher boy at his weekend work;
How if lover lift a hand to caress my cheek
I flinch. Dear Spartan mother, why did you send me
To the Apothetae, alone among your children?


I sat staring in my study at the ju-ju I'd made
Then from a top shelf pulled a thick book down
From psychologies I now won't read again,
Opened it in the middle, lay the damned thing
Between the pages as you would to press a flower,
Or billets doux from a bad affair you can't quite
Forget, and committed her to my high loculus.

Extract from the title prose Certain Windows

Childhood's venues faded at twelve when I went to work in the Pennsauken Merchandise Mart, a windowless "farmer's market" on forty level acres in New Jersey five minutes across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Joe bought a half interest in a butcher shop there after he closed his failing Fourth Street store, and, to save money, put me to work in its cutting room and on its counter selling meat. The Mart was a one-story, flat roofed, yellow cinderblock coffin floating in an open sea of asphalt where a thousand cars could park. Five blocks long, two boxcars wide, it took more than ten minutes to walk one of its two aisles end to end. Customers, almost all of whom were working class or poor, entered through eight steel double doors evenly spaced down its two long sides, or through the double glass doors at either end. It had no windows or skylights; once inside, whether it was night or day, fair or foul became a mystery, except when hail or heavy rain thrummed on the sheet metal roof.
  You could hear rats - we called them freezer rats - scuttle away when you opened the door to the large walk-in freezer opposite the cutting room. They gnawed through a foot of concrete foundation and three inch plywood floor to nibble frozen turkeys stored for the holidays. We shaved the chewed portions with a band saw to remove their teeth marks before the turkeys went on sale. You could smell rancid grease and green pork scraps, as well as sage mixed with sodium nitrite to turn all pink again, when we made sausage. You could see heat rise in waves from the asphalt parking lot, the Mart shimmer, when the temperature hit one hundred degrees in summer, and feel the tar suck your shoes down as you walked across the melting parking lot. But you could not see, or smell, or hear childhood any longer.

© All poems remain the copyright of Dan Burt and are reproduced with his permission
Certain Windows can be purchased from Amazon - Buy Certain Windows