July 9, 2021

Ace Boggess


A guy from DNR tracked the neighborhood bear, a yearling who’s been causing quite a stir on Facebook & in rubbish bins along Gordon Drive. Scraps, all it wanted, wandering in excessive Summer heat. Families can’t live with a bear on the street making a mess, marking its territory by scatterings of meat-scented plastic & a few violent markings on the trees. At first, the DNR rep swore the bear would be put down, its black/brown coat blooming lips & roses. But everyone has a camera. Photos posted in the Facebook group once reserved for neighborly complaints about fireworks or people speeding were like those of someone’s happy child at play in a brutal world. So, the bear will be relocated to a wildlife preserve. Plenty of space. Lots of caves & streams. There’s enough emptiness in West Virginia for any reclusive animal—a myth, a memory—escaping the limelight in which it never wanted to be like a murderer’s wife. 

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021
Tribute to Appalachian Poets


Ace Boggess: “I’ve lived in West Virginia all my life. All over the state. I’ve done time here. I’ve traveled the winding mountain roads in fog and snow. To experience a place is to be defined by it. For good or bad, who’s to say? I just write and let the rest sort itself out.” (web)

Rattle Logo

May 26, 2017

Ace Boggess


I should be friends with my ex-wife,
extend handshake & chivalrous salute,
as if we might hang out
somewhere between servers &
play Gin Rummy, digital checkers,
as if not-enemies isn’t enough;
we have to like each other, &
our posts. Her face appears,
sadly smiling, on my screen
like a phantom, like any
of one hundred thousand memories,
ambiguous. +Add Friend,
the social network strong-arms me,
demanding I send a new request
as though she wouldn’t request in turn
twenty years of her life back, &
I wouldn’t find it too disturbing
to read about her relationship status,
thumb through pictures of her travels
to beaches, zoos, concerts, cathedrals,
with whomever might prove
martyr enough for love.
I’m much too busy regretting,
also trying to forget, & dancing
in a dark & empty room,
while wondering how I should
pitch Facebook on an +Add
Not-Enemy button for those
we’d rather not know, except we do.

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017

[download audio]


Ace Boggess: “However tragic or romantic, however chaotic or routine, life is absurd. I’m fascinated by the absurdity. I want to collect it in mason jars and give those out as gifts. That’s why I write poems, also an absurd thing to do. Well, that and I have few other useful skills. I mean, who would hire me? My current motto: ‘Will Post Poems to Facebook for Food.’” (webpage)

Rattle Logo

August 24, 2015

Ace Boggess


we sit there straining & stiff
in straight-backed chairs

half a dozen of us
following Dorothy’s naïve plunge

into trouble & Technicolor
a fantasy less enchanting

than in the innocence of our youth
what is Dot but a body dressed in innocence?

her Betty Boop oh-mys
her dance-stepping along the avenues

like a skipped stone or drop of paint
from a bucket left on a booming speaker &

how she makes friends with strangers
what her mama warned her about

more likely to encounter one of us
cowardly heartless & out of our minds

we forgive her this slip-up
having come with her so far

we go on following at a safe distance
like guardian angels with bloody swords &

when we arrive at the Emerald City
we sneak thief-like through the gates

wanting to see her achieve her goal
which is the same as ours

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015

[download audio]


Ace Boggess: “Looking back at my years in prison, I often realize how absurd things seem compared to what the average person might expect. If I were watching a reality show like Lock-up or a TV series like, coincidentally, Oz, how likely is it that I would see a bunch of cons sitting around watching an old fantasy like The Wizard of Oz. Nonetheless, it happened. So, I put that down on paper. I love to write about the absurd in my life probably more than anything else. It allows me to make a serious point while laughing all the way.” (website)

Rattle Logo

June 14, 2015

Ace Boggess


Dreams that belonged to each of us:
unbroken spirit versus unbreakable walls.
I remember mine as vividly as leg irons:
sniffing pollen from flowers at a highway’s edge,
hiding from marshals under a mound
of brittle leaves in the garden,
eating burgers in a dead café. So,
when I heard those two guys made it out
from Clinton Correctional in New York
through a hole in the wall,
along pipes & hidden passageways,
out a manhole into the movie-like rain,
a part of me rejoiced—not the part
that knows human decency,
not the part that wants to be safe
in its discreet new life; no,
that other part that wishes itself bravado,
the visionary weighted down from years of longing.
How it must feel for them to anticipate
a soft mattress, softer arms embracing,
first sniff at sizzle-scents of steak; &
how confusing to learn the world has changed
without them (whatever world they dreamt
of escaping to). It’s there I leave them
as though putting down a paperback thriller,
not wanting to read what happens next
when truth does violence to their fantasies,
as it will, & the gray, fermented fruits
of what was believed to be freedom
squeeze sad wine into a glass
from which these men already drank before.

Poets Respond
June 14, 2015

[download audio]


Ace Boggess: “I couldn’t avoid writing about the two convicts escaping from prison in New York. It hit a little too close to home.” (website)

Rattle Logo

September 3, 2014

Ace Boggess


I come to your door with a mango smoothie
because you are sick your world inverse

like that Star Trek episode
where bad Kirk’s goatee reflects the Jolly Roger

leaning in I watch you sip sunny nectar
exhale only shadow

I know I cannot heal you
love never a healing word

as I know from your trailing mascara
you lack faith to keep this down for long

at least I have offered a favorable flavor
for the coming up again

like a bottle of sauce
to dress the lesser meat

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

[download audio]


Ace Boggess: “I have long believed in a journalism of poetry. I try to show the news of the day (which means that if it’s a slow news day, there are lots of pictures of squirrels in trees). I also have a special love for special love poems. It might be said I started digging up the corpse of Neruda many years before a Chilean judge decided to do the same.” (website)

Rattle Logo

December 14, 2012

Ace Boggess


All I own fits in a box & a bag.
All I have loved engages the rage of rockets
blown bright &
quivering back as dust,
the scattering, descent & darkness.
For want of a dollar I’d insert one poem
into a vending machine for peanuts:
the mechanism
washes it back as counterfeit.

How would it be to possess an interest in the sun,
a lien on my lover’s breast, a trove of what bonds
best mature like words of light & warmth
against the blank, blurry skin of winter’s page?

Law books call it Blackacre, some hypothetical
property that can be bought or sold for a peppercorn.
It has its rules—so many, a litany of the possible,
gospel of ownership.
to profit from such fiction …

I must give back my tee shirts, underwear & socks.
My belt shall tie pants to a stranger’s waist.

I hold my plot in the family field,
a black acre.

Otherwise, it’s just the sound of rain on remembered rooftops;
nostalgia for clowns & shopping malls,
lost pets, spontaneous laughter &
eavesdroppings splattered on the unrecorded past.
There’s so much nothing in the world: a man can’t even own that
without acquiring something in the loss.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012


Ace Boggess: “With both a law degree and a rap sheet, I of course am fascinated with the interplay between both sides of the law. This poem comes from such a crossover. It was inspired by a shakedown at the prison during which all inmate property was inventoried and itemized. Sigh. Inmates always wonder what it means to have so little of practical value in this world.” (web)

Rattle Logo

December 6, 2012

Ace Boggess


asked by Johnny Redmond

They can feed you pulverized bones
of rat, but not the eyes or hair.
They can softly submerge your face in the sink,
never the toilet without a showing of cause.
They can sing country western songs
all night off key as you try to sleep,
rap on Fridays, rhythm & blues in the afternoon,
though heavy metal would violate your rights.
They can laugh at your inadequacy.
They can kick you, but only when you’re down.
They’ll seduce your wife with white roses &
tales of your exploits floundering
like a bear with no arms & broken wings.
On a good day they might leave you alone
(a good day for you, for they have none).
They can spin you in a centrifuge,
dress you in dresses, dance on your grave,
can tie your shoelaces in a knot
(don’t say they cannot) then lock
your fingers in a Chinese puzzle
so you struggle until you disappear,
a Theseus walking threadless into a maze.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010


Ace Boggess: “Despite my last shrink telling me I had ‘nothing textbook wrong with me,’ a lifelong battle with social anxiety led me both to writing and opiate addiction. The latter brought a short life of crime and a much longer prison term in West Virginia, where I serve as inmate legal rep. (Motto: ‘You’re probably screwed, but we’ll see what we can do.’) As such, I often get asked questions like the one that inspired ‘Can They Do That?’.” (web)

Rattle Logo