Poems by John Horvath, Jr


"On writing:  I focus on the biographical, not autobiographical, to make social narratives from "inside the sinner" where the poet must exercise empathy and sympathy, render the observed more open to discussion, more human, and perhaps more dignified. I write to create purpose and drama in mundane and meaningless acts. My technique is akin to 'sprung rhythm': I pen/pencil my ideas; revise them into traditional metric/rhyme schemes (not necessarily English); then, I revise a poem into a narrative, free verse/lyrical form. I do this to explore my subject and to distance myself from the poem because, as Plato noted, "Poetry endangers the established order of the soul"; it is what poetry must do, so poets must use care."

An Hungarian-American born in Chicago, John Horvath Jr was educated (PhD) in the American South; has been steel mill mechanic, soldier, Munich street
poet, cab driver, professor of literature and criticism. Disabled in a parachute accident, he now lives in Jackson Mississippi with wife, four children, two dogs, and a cat. Horvath edits PoetryRepairShop - Contemporary International Poetry (since 1997) and writes poetry, much of which appears online. (Kiki the cat, who reminds me that not everyone will love me nor love my poetry which she eats regularly, perfers manuscripts in pencil or red ink.)




megalodi  angelo  eudaemonizer


Marcus Milton born of wealth to riches

destined certainly, inheritor of his

father’s father’s  trove and prestige

(does not matter if there’s love though

love is fixed upon him by the masses

and his missus soon to bear new Milton

generations swollen into privilege. She

--the focus and the center and the hub

 of diverse social circles -- a static

point full of college cheerful, leader

to the leaderless, succor to the weak,

malnourished babies from the ghetto.

Her man is THE Marcus Milton who is so

magic in a million means of doubling or

tripling whatever he’s been given; This

Eustace is his mistress born to boring

expectations: Be a beauty, be so clever,

enjoy the finer life may offer; marry

well and marry money; and, if not money-

married, be money’s special interest.


Peso, krona, pound, and yen exchanger

Marcus Milton, dollar man, and his jewel

laden lover, “lady’ Eustace meet for an

evening of swank and private black-tie

dining in Center City’s oldest business

district at his special corner table hidden

from others of their ilk and ken where

he seldom shares a luncheon hour or two

with a minion or competitor, wife soon

to be mother of his children  (it’s been

three generations of never Milton sired

children of their own line. No one dare

say Marcus Milton is a wealthy bastard.)


Here to serve them while they’re seated

Robin Public straight and narrow stands

attentive in wholesale finery provided

by the owners of the establishment. His

own only white shirt over brightly waxed

and shining slippers. Meets that glance

of self-approval – he helps create it,

part of his very special Public service.


(Robin Public Is a poor man, so say Dow

Jones and Standard Poor list convicts of

a busy business district. Ever palm up

quietly bids for extra bits of splendor

for his efforts seeming effortless. Yes.

Robin Public, just a poor man—works for

good old, fat-cat traders and friendly

French-cuffed, well-laundered  bankers

who may tip him for service rendered

(while he renders to the well-off who he

wishes he could render into lard or…).)


 “Bring lion filet mignon; lobster tails

broiled with expensive spices; bring us

oysters with fresh pearls; bring it hot

or cold as ordered, bring it quickly,

bring the best of your muscarinic wine

for aperitif; bring us a side of Tuscan

truffles unearthed by well-bred swine

of cleanest muzzles could not be fooled.

Later we shall require thick and slowly

moving java from the hills of deepest,

dark Jamaica; Crème from cattle

 pampered on the pampas.

Here’s a gift, my sweetest Eustace, just

a little teardrop bauble to entertain us

while we wait. Now, you, son, go and get

it!” Milton is a man of wit. Lights his

Havana as he surveys all around him;

makes a note of who’s with whom there –

leaders of the city, crime-lords, an old

owner of old industries there, a little

scat of newly wealthy pimps and pushers.


Tolerance: the Milton motto (the credo

keeps him welcome as the front man for

every recently risen social movement.)


While Marcus Milton dines with his Lady

Eustace, Robin eats a fifty cent bologna

sandwich on bleached white bread slices

touched by no hand,  bland potatoes in

plain oil boiled. Robin breaks from

being someone other, bathes

his hands while thinking, thinks of his

Bobbie, Robin’s own sweet live-in life-

mate girlfriend  Then he’s called back

to the table, serves again, a dessert

soldier in the war for silver dollars.


Lady Eustace tips their waiter; “’They

also serve,’ says Mister Milton, “who

merely stand and wait.’” (Her Milton is

a wit.) As soon as said, she drops

 a tear-drop diamond 

into the palm of Robin Public (Robin

even smiles as if he knows it’s no mere

sugar-glass from off her bauble). Now

there is no hurry; Marcus Milton slowly,

calmly driven to an evening at theatre

(polite muffled coughing, nervous bits

of laughter,  snips of private chatter,

mistress Eustace settled in for enter-

tainments shared with her admiring

subjects –Dollar man is with his sweet

darling. NewsWatch televised on special

Center City channel portrays Marcus

Milton as lonely angel patron of the opera

house he’d built for Center City masses.

(Chandeliers and champagne for his minions.)

Purple vellum paper curtain rises.


At intermission a smallish, too young,

bathroom matron, gingham meets the tone-

dressed in the ladies’ who have most

everything she ever wanted as a child

before the boring routine of common

daily tedium to make tips from warmed,

fresh-scented towels and a broom for

sweeping up the ladies’ leavings. (It’s

a living. Barely, it’s a living). She

smiles thinking “after hours” when Bath-

room Bobbie will meet her boyfriend

Robin down an unlit street, in a squalid

corner old-brick tavern under neon buzz

of reddish flicker  where a few unshaven

drinkers visit with each other and other

down-and-outers. Count the tips and

share a brewski before sunrise raft of

bacon and some bedtime bedroom cuddling

naked, maybe sleep through the day glow

or gloom until evening turns to another

night of garish glitter.


Lock the doors and windows, Butler,

turn the lights down low; perhaps I’ll

listen to some Chopin, perhaps Bach,

or soft Debussy– another point of bald

indecision before donning his mink mocs

and oriental housecoat then to bed with

Missus Marcus Milton, sip two fingers

of good whiskey ere he dreams of risky

markets, beggars, hoodlum dangers on

each corner of his city. Sleeping softly

with his Missus, each half awake, they

make one sleeper cradled in night terror

waiting for their morning wake-up

with the hair of dogs that bit them.


Robin Public’s girlfriend Bobbie’s grown

simple in her needs and in her desires

simpler: have a good man wake beside her,

serve her steaming breakfast coffee, sit

beside her TV watching, on their days

off take her walking through a garden,

be her left hand at the market and when

they cook together All they truly share

‘s a prayer for better living, not for

themselves but for someone other.




Now the wild white horses play


(Matthew Arnold's sea is life, of course;

The sea, an act of procreation, and

sexual desire is the horse.

The sands of time-- we note'-- lay beneath

the Dover bone-white cliffs of death.

This microcosm is the rhythm of all lives.)


I am a half century of experience

More than a quarter-century since

our experience


For nothing explained

to these box-viewing brains

is as real as the moment

of "I" in the "ACT"




I recall for them a poem by Matthew Arnold

and remember you while reading it

but this is not for such children

not for the mothers of children




for a woman who has known lust

among the sand-fleas and the crust

of sand on her firm buttocks

after the hot sun has dried

remembrance onto her thighs




There is no poem here

no refuge from the god of fire

who quenches the suffering horses

with spray shattering shore stones

then dries sea-salts onto their backs


and the hip die too

not like in the movies

until the next contract

but suddenly





they think that they will never die

but Arnold and I will outlive them


Yes.  The hip die too


the young women with sharp tits

and riots of come-over-here-hunk

in their eyes which I see though

they lay naked on the white sand


they die


skin cancer rots

the beauty that

comes to beaches

in midsummer

or the fire god

leathers their haunches

that in old age

feel of ancient books

covered with the skins

of sinners tanned

at the stake


I have tasted

I myself

that dried flesh

dark skins of lust


at Costa brava

sweating under the sun

the naked sweat smell

of their juices sizzling

under the heat of mid-

summer frying slowly

I myself have tasted

their dreams of desire


I am not here saying this

because of the loneliness


nor are you here

lips on my masculine muscle

talking with your mouth

around the bulbous rose

of my manhood

about to blossom

into your words





this is the simplicity of truth

an objectivity of how earth

has spatial distances &

specialized measurements

between the horses that play

at the edge of the sea spray,

between their bare backs

and the lush cunts of nude

riders, dripping wet between

those lips I have kissed between

the buds at the tip of my tongue

when I was young

tasting you

even now

tasting you


I am hard to remember

my member hard remembering

how we were such wild white horses

whoring summer at seaside

where I was the whip

of your whim

and you saddled my wants


we would with abandon

do whatever it took

to live in that moment

forever that we might never

forget this place that time

what we had done together


So, we thank you,

Matthew Arnold,

for the suggestion

that life both begins

at the sea and ends


And in this

I am young

not lecturing

but again there

inside of her


I am not an old man rambling

about inconsequential things

that these young

will refuse to take

into their limited

imagine-less real worlds


there is nothing to experience


there is no poem here


there is only a boy in his first great love

acting as if he were a boy again





Chicago Southside smoke stacks and furnaces
whose ashes move eastward along interstate
80 to New York dog tailing to Boston where does
it begin where the first asphalt that first
bug splat windshield hurrying from setting sun
into anxious eyes fixed on the middle line blinded
by sudden approaches of strangers going into what
has been escaped then the sun rising again as
if nothing had happened no past no furnaces
no towns built around forges no shackled workers

small dark cloud of boy ramshackling over bent
Pontiac in the dead lot just off rail tracks that snake
toward flat plains and tall buildings seen from
the beach abutting whose gray concrete seawall
appears a jagged saw or shark's teeth chewing
earth there where money-makers enjoy hard labor

by others such a place a mystery of beginnings

we have all seen driving hurried  toward

destinations as mysterious their faces from
soiled windows like so many unbranched black

leaves gutter captured as we speed by

some things taught few things remembered
first line, first john, hanging out of a third floor
flowerbox, vomit toward the corner cop surveying
pay toilets East on interstate 80 uglier more

menacing like a cancer or leprous wounds

unspeakably scabbed over,  the corner-stoned,
vines of ivy growing around old women legs

whose roots saw revolution’s red cobbles lead

to  brown stones off the main line, on tracks

there in the corner of your eye near small town

America where no one cares about the past

where homeless winos lay dismembered on

A line rails that circles from far nowheres

In a city of nuns cloaked in mystery vows ply

Saint Pat’s aisles harangue indiscreet boys

asleep in pews meant for worshipful members
of the order members of the congregation

go out to damnable cold. Yes sister from all.

Yes to you all who have shed fat and smoking

and habits of sexual impropriety. Yes to you all

who have not yet found the Lord you seek. I say

Yes Yes to all of you. On 80 from second city straight
lined in jeans and my father's felt hat, naked from
waist up through the winter storms toward very NEW
New England whose cities like lanterns gaudy velvet
heavens from shoreline into the agate ocean turbulent
with crisp spikes of daylight unconquerable very New
New England whose brittle speech mimics the hard
ground of poems I have read praising disconnection
between men bridges to cross bridges of metaphor
between souls screaming their servitude into society
bellowing  from deep grumbling chests New England

understands the lighthouse the foghorn the warning

of imminent danger hard rocks harsh vocabulary

of disenfranchisement, estranged from offensive

dog droppings, alien to those in brick and bricklayer.


 I am driving east

and in the silk band of that hat plastic peyote, what
would father have said, the heater of his '53 Chevy
like the exhaust of Bessemer furnaces I once worked

the window opened to a violence of snowflakes
accosting landscapes burying dead dark cities
too distant for names unknown on no map

what might have been seen, teetering wet

bitter atop passing bridges surveying iced over

rivers men and women huddled on steam vents

of summery Fahrenheit driven toward forgetting

who I had been where I had done what I had seen

of the round world after having survived mass

murder when I escaped from overseas pain

that had brought us here. Yes. The sea
that had brought all of us here. No one is native.


From the Bobbie cobbled streets of London along
Amsterdam open season windows, goose-stepping
beyond Paris into the verflugt Reich onto the munchen
monopteros im Englischer Garten to squall pain
of survival lies of life into a cacophony of olympian
visitors whose pfennigen I gathered up so to feed
my starving artist poet's persona, on whose crumb
fattened stray pigeons I feasted. This is my mountain.
This is my sitting place. This my hookah and strawman.
This is my yellowed brick. This is cash only always.

A song unsung on my lips, a happy wanderer,

alone alone alone escaping the lie of better lives

Yet in high Alps stars touched my face as I lay

cold upon the swaying grass in a night’s pretence

of winter These words yellow snow lovely in nature

inedible. Winter before Italy and its laundry flags
like vangogh holiday flags then an Adriatic
Coast whose blue-eyed waters forgave souls
their speechlessness. I am a polyglot dictionary
of half correct phrases, a travelogue of strange
looks, an encyclopedia of faces signaling
Toward where I would become someone else,
not a poet, but an owned man. Someone’s

husband. Someone’s father.  A would-be

escapee from dangerous Midwest life

its industrial beer drinkers oiling armatures
Anglo intolerance rejected for intolerance

of their own making. It began on Interstate

80 this desire for elsewhere new experience

for my towering self apart from millions

of crab bent workers making stripped
clean products in  ubiquitous junkyards.

I have come through that and the Khyber Pass
with dysentery drying on my trousers a deep
brown turned green. I am come from mountains
Alexander crossed, having failed myself to cross
them. And out of California to Old South my lips
welded shut as the old men who had lost passion

where I had secretly fornicated with abandon and

masturbated in the shower afterward always more

pleased with myself than I could have right. Each

of us in that shower now. All of us. Hot warmth

of ourselves inhaled. Blacked-booted. Brown-shirted.

Gestapo of love object to my revenge, my offspring

in the loins of good girls innocents daddy's girls 

pink rich kids moronically stupefied dull-faced

harlequins overly experienced who would become

wives of politicians the lays of warmongers one night

for visiting officials governors an aide to an

assistant to a secretary men bloated on small

self-made estates, empires of cash. It is not
about me. It is about all of us in all of us transferred
from one post to another who have no banner
to plant no stone reminders of ancient occupation
and transferring what we have been. Eating it up
in our pork sausage breakfasts our Wheaties and
porridge and coffee stained mornings. I say YES.
How might it have been otherwise? Purpose unserved
in looking back, nostalgia a gnome seeking shelter

in a giant’s underpants. Yes to giants. Yes to Gargantua.

Yes to skinny kids' dreams of riches and power

yes to the garbage and land fill canon fodder
of tomorrow's who cares if they die.


This has all been said because dark night
in a drab soul yearns.  to say yes to life despite

crippled hands dancing like sprayed roaches

across keyboard simulating communion
YES against the bogey-man and YES against
a peaceful and solemn death obscure in a small
unfriendly part of America. Yes. It is a word
whispered once into my ear by a woman so beautiful
my eyes watered at hearing it. Yes. That I could
receive such a word so long incomprehensible,
so long thought without meaning. Yes. It is
a word whispered once into my ear by a woman
so beautiful my eyes water at thinking it. Yes.

She is the memory of that dark cloud of small boy
ramshackling over the bent Pontiac toward a back
seat and first nakedness first exhibition of himself
as if nothing were to hide all of that hidden now
except her rat-tail brush I've carried for forty years.

Yes to interstate 80. The process of return is yet

another preparation for leaving. Yes to my journey

into the East, yes to the Catherine-wheel of destiny.

Yes to it all. Yes to that woman whose voice

bellows on my eardrums. Yes. It's been a long hard

good drive into trust, into acceptance, into true love.

My journey is over. I drive 5 10 15 20 miles

Over the speedlimit wondering when that cop

Will come sirens blaring sliding on black ice

Until I find an off-ramp into metropolis into its

Suburbia Yes. I have steered dad’s rattle-trap

clunker into a driveway

The officer coming ticket in hand

My window open to enjoy the fury of snow

The motor is off. The engine is cooling. For this

I traveled from Chicago on Interstate 80 East.

For this I have kept mementoes of lovers

remembering good lost kisses I have spent

my life working against success, no goal other

than this moment when a six foot trooper in

his Dudley Do-right felt hat bends his face into

the heat streaming from my heater into the last

night of winter and the firing pin falls It takes

only a second to run the slide show of his being

here among such people all the foul drunks and

all the blasted women offering crotch against

his written accusations Now the back seat

I am convinced ever my destiny regardless

what purposes I may have built  Me,  I am

to be driven, driven to places and faces and

words uncontrollably. The windows have fogged.

The hero has fallen. Celebrity criminals.

The heat of my flesh departing to travel again.

I am waiting for Mister and Missus Stranger

To come for the morning paper and see my vehicle

beneath a white snowdrift. Mister and Missus

maybe their children trying to see though

icedover windows who might be there what

would he be doing I wait for my beloved

to find me. Yes. I am merely waiting.





            Tunna cowaum?
So quiet in that cavity where faith resides
a lie boasts of itself til dawn. This coming son
will hear the lie and think it is my heart
ta-tha-thumping life and lives that went before.
Some little echo of a bludgeoned innocent,
some echo of a tribal woman saved from sin,
the sack of Rome, conquest of an alpine Slav,
a battleline drawn thin around sad Stalingrad.
I heard them at my mother's breast.
           All here,

all here, all here now ha-har-harumphing in my chest.
It will be a thing for a child to sleep beside,
to curl in a primal loop and hide inside
from worlds it may little understand.
It is the ticking of a lie, a part-time truth
that grows and grows once it's entered a small ear.
All here, all here, I tell you, the lies we half forget
are half of truth and half desire for a truth.
I heard them on my father's boozy breath.
Small ticking comfort in a loathsome world.
You must learn new lies for life
among the lifeless ones. Such, your heritage--
to tell tales that have not been so long
they've neither moral, right, nor wrong;
to take the easy rhyme, the glibbest meter
for your memory and pass it on
until it is a morsel of another's faith that truth
exists. In time there'll come a second emptiness:
when I and you and all descent forget.
So I begin the tale as I thought another might--
            vir fuit indole bonus, ac justus:  
            et popularium gloriae amantissimus
            quibus eternum reliquit monumentum
copyright John Horvath Jr

House to house on first occupation day
to comb for subversives – pseudo
intellectuals who had undermined
then surrendered their own, underground
leaders, men and women who murdered
their own, first line, first stalwarts,
makers of terrible truths revamped and
K____ now in his own dungeon
writes on the walls the weeks in
captivity, fearing the light of the sun
and the burning city above him.
Is it Sunday now and should he pray
to beg forgiveness from an uncaring god
who did not save him who needed
salvation? None at the end.
K____ eats regularly the rats
that burrow beneath the burned
city and he wonders whether
some of the fat ones had feasted
on flesh. Was this in the chain
of being a brother or coworker
perhaps a slatternly bitch who
kept track of the horses and lay
on her back for more money to bet.
K____ names them now. After
a month in his sheltered solitude
where the water drips slowly from
the ceiling and the damp walls
seem to grow closer, tighter.
It is his humor – to name dinner
for loved ones and others he’s known.
Even more palatable than when he’d
given each morsel a group occupation:
bakers, burglars, onto zookeepers
had seemed an exercise in developing
a connoisseur taste. Things taste
better when you know them by name.
A year after occupation
the city returns to its normal
routine as if nothing but flag
had been altered. This banner,
that. What does it matter?

copyright John Horvath Jr

and all of this
is only the moon's
sheer verbiage
though we need all philosophy
and the strength
to keep it out of our work
and we imitate physicists
who assemble experiments
and on these found system
which reduces them to a principle
or we insist
this is a record
of a best and happiest moment
of a best and happiest mind
but I say
it is a foreign language
of ideas poorly expressed
its meaning incommunicable
whether it contains an alien
quality which belongs to America
to nowhere else
or it is spirit
emboldened by
a very curious assembly
of incongruous parts
it is only the moon
sheer verbiage about it
things that must be said
before a dedicated sleep

copyright John Horvath Jr

I call you "Stephen Arpad", leader of aristocrats
plunging into commonfolk. I imagine you strong
in O'Keefe landscapes - Free among bleached skulls,
on heat spirals into scorched sky without horizons.
You dwell as a desert voice remembered:
a bloodied life crying before exiting
the cut of mom, you a hairheaded, point-
shouldered excitement like brothers and
sisters none of whom escaped my genetics.
Why pester sleepless nights?
Do you dream me and seek me?
I've nothing more than you -
all I have is yours:  Life's
sterile beginning and end,
the edges of dangerous excitements
that spark happy and unbid to life.
You've life and the dream of a pure West.

 Pass it on.
copyright John Horvath Jr;



      Recent Poetry:
CONUS: the First Tour Chapbook, new and collected poetry of war, by John Horvath Jr. http://www.ebookstand.com/m/johnhorvathjr
Audax http://www.alonet.de.vu
Seeker www.seekermagazine.com

Ixion http:/www.btinternet.com/~ixionmag/
Audax http://www.alonet.de.vu
Bonfire http:/www.homeusers.prestel.co.uk/jordanhill/
StarkRavingSanity http:/www.StarkRavingSanity.com/
Ascent http://www.interlog.com/~ascent/home.htm
The Animist http://theanimist2000.netgazer.au/pg000031.html
Red Coral http:/www.jps.net/redcoral
ArtPage Images http://www.artvilla.com/sub.htm
DuctTapePress http:/www.io.com/~crberry/DuctTape/
Ygdrasil. http://www.synapse.net/~kgerken