Three Poems by Ross Martin

BOMB 73 Fall 2000
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Basketball with the Methodists

“This steeple’s got dirt under the fingernails.”
—Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth

the roof,
here’s the steeple,
open it up and see all
the people, crosses worn
proud under colored mesh, dipped
in silver but never removed, and me
I am here, the Jew that Wes brought along.

the rock!
Shoot the rock!
the Methodists shout,
and a rock is a stone and
stones are thrown and someone
threw stones at Jesus, once, but who?
is the answer to the ultimate question, so
I shoot the ball and it falls asleep on the tired, red rim …

wait for it
to pop in or out,
and it’s up there still,
a binary prayer, no need
for guilt, bottomless despair,
when the preacher peeks in his pious
head he’s sure he sees in his men moves God
must have put there when they were born. These

the men
of peripheral
vision, troops of hoops,
straight ears of the Word, cornfield
boys, tall as God’s knees, the blond summer
flesh of choirgirl dreams, who lower their heads,
stretch their legs and pray, day after day is done. I know

right now
in Tennessee
must be down on his knees,
praying to air I don’t go to hell
from here, Apt. 1A, a Jew from Jersey,
born in Saint Barnabas without his Jesus,
like a ball without air in a steeple without people Amen.


Making Believe

I am pretending to be the one you have always loved,
next to you.

Fireskin knees bend,
embers tender the pink.

I am pretending to be the two of us
like buffalo moose
spreading folds, sifting fir.

We drink rum and we shudder.
You peel like a plum.
The walls dampen with musk heat.

It must be days now,
never leaving
but to bathe in woodbreeze,

squat down
and hide what we make.



One wants to love

Between the two one might locate fleeting self-religions of distance.

Take baths together, skin knowing skin the way two dirts communicate, lips

indenting lips, the signatures one keeps making room for. In space once

there is no memory.

Ross Martin is VP of Film & Television Development and Poetry Editor of Nerve( His new poems are found in Agni, Boulevard, Denver Quarterly, Fence, Kenyon Review, Many Mountains Moving, Prairie Schooner, and other magazines. He teaches at The New School and Rhode Island School of Design, and he is about to marry the painter Jordana Munk.

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A powerfully intimate story collection that embraces darkness and light in equal measure.

Originally published in

BOMB 73, Fall 2000

Featuring interviews with Vik Muniz, Shirin Neshat, Madison Smartt Bell, Javier Marias, Misia, Michael Frayn, Karyn Kusama, and Michael Roth.

Read the issue
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