The Putnam

by: Dustin Joy

Kids run up and down

the plastic tree,

puppets on their hands,

a polyester squirrel, 

a rayon groundhog,

all made in China.

They stare at the bats

in the cave exhibit – Ewwww!

Look at the mummy – Ewwww!

A flathead catfish rolls

in the lazy current

of the big aquarium.

Try to get children to care,

about the amazing evolutionary

achievement of the Compass Plant,

roots twenty feet deep!

Try to get anyone to notice

a plexiglas box in the corner.

The passenger pigeon looks out 

with its oddly thyroid eyes,

its formerly vibrant plumage


Once five billion of us

surged through the skies


a living wind. 

Driven to extinction by greed and 

ignorance and apathy.

The bison nods from across

the room. 

“I feel your pain, Dude.”

God’s Scientist

by: Dustin Joy

“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.”

-George Washington Carver

I said it and I believe it.

All I have accomplished,

all I have been privileged to understand,

has been through His indulgence.

“Without God to draw aside the curtain, 

I would be helpless.”

With God’s help I became a prophet, 

a modest one. 

Tuskegee is not Mt. Sinai, after all, and

blackboards are not stone tablets.

But I told them what He told me. 

I told them about soil depletion,

and the virtue of crop rotation, 

and about the remarkable versatility 

of the peanut and the sweet potato 

and the soybean, 

as was vouchsafed to me 

by the almighty.

I told them, and they were nonplussed.

And lo, they sayeth, “cotton is king!”

But Jesus sayeth, in consolation,

“A prophet is not without honor, 

save in his own country and in his own house.”

Still, I reckon I fared better 

than John the Baptist.

I didn’t lose my head,

the stakes being less in peanuts.

Then came the weevil, 

sent by God, I suppose.

And then they believed,

and they rotated,

and they diversified,

and they were saved 

by peanuts.

Down in Enterprise they were moved

by their deliverance and the timeliness 

of the prophet’s prophesy,

my prophesy.

And they built a statue,

a statue to honor…

the weevil!

God’s ways are truly inscrutable. 



I hurt my back today, brushing my teeth.

 To tell the truth, it’s not a thing

I thought a person could do.

The mechanics are obscure.

It certainly never happened when I was


In the cockpit, my handsome


year-old co-pilot and my pretty


year-old flight attendant share an exuberant laugh. 

I say hello and smile. The laugh dissipates into the ether. 

I do the math. Twenty-three plus Twenty-one equals


They are properly solicitous of their old Captain.

They inquire about my day, and my wife, 

and the weather in Santa Fe.

 But they don’t tell me what was

 so funny.

I stop to to talk to my daughter’s roommate, 

to compliment her editorial in the college paper, 

the one about cultural appropriation. 

I sense a kindred spirit, her fight so like

the liberal causes I championed, when I was


My brilliant, fierce, and caustic essays beat down apartheid 

(at least in Galesburg, IL.)

But she was late, and on her way to class, 

and distracted by a major crisis, 

involving her Instagram feed.

Respectful and deferential, 

she held the door for me as we went out, 

as if I was an old man, and not a fellow warrior 

in the battle against injustice. 

I think I spent too much of my youth being


I followed the rules; I aimed to please.

I got good grades, and mostly abstained from


I kept my powder dry; I lay in wait. 

I built a nest egg, and I collected data. 

I awaited the hour when I could use my competence, 

my acumen, my knowledge, to awe, to amaze, to impress. 

I would grab the world by the lapels and shake it.  

And now I am really


with a larder fully stocked 

with wisdom and pertinent experience. 

And now that I am ready, 

it seems that the treasure I assiduously cached, 

a penny at a time, in the mattress of life, has been the victim of inflation. 

It is a Cabbage Patch Doll after 1985. 

And if you’re not also


you don’t even know what that means, 

just like I don’t know what LMFAO means. 

I should probably look that up,

or stop using it.

There is little call for what I have accumulated 

and its value seems to diminish day by day. 

I wish I had read Shakespeare again when I was 


and heeded Rosalind’s words to Phoebe:

“Sell when you can, you are not for all markets.”

Now I’m 


and even the god-damned toothbrush

has turned against me.

His Barn

His Barn – a poem

by: Dustin Joy

The barn door creaks on ancient hinges,
like her knees, with aches and twinges.

She opens it with apprehension,
melancholy, belief suspension.

She came here just to get the spade,
to dig potatoes, while there’s shade.

To him it never was a chore,
scorning melons from the store.

He sowed these seeds with loving care,
pulled the weeds, ran off the mare.

Sweet corn might be nice for lunch,
bright green onions by the bunch.

A fresh tomato, one zucchini,
suitable for tonight’s linguini.

She turns to go, this barn is haunted.
She steels herself, she wont be daunted.

She takes the shovel, hard to heft it,
cleaned and oiled from where he left it.

These things were his, his pride and joy,
her husband’s bench, his tools, his toys.

His works of art, both wood and ferric,
colorful and esoteric.

Whirligigs, doo-dads, inventions,
moving sculptures, good intentions.

She picks one up, a clever what’s-it.
She smiles, she laughs, she cries, she hugs it.

Compassion, kindness, a touch of crazy,
serenity some took for lazy.

Whimsical, her dad thought feckless,
she loved him more when he was reckless.

His things still lie here, strewn about.
Others said to throw them out.

Sad memories, to best be rid.
They never knew him like she did.

Without his spark, his touch of dreamy,
she steps outside, the sky is creamy.

The setting sun, he loved the gloaming.
Across their lives her thoughts are roaming.

A widow’s world, can she adapt,
a sewing circle, perhaps a cat?

She locks his barn up, safe and true.
She smiles for him, he loved that, too.