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David A. Porter was a co-founder and the managing editor of 20 Pounds of Headlights, a literary annual published in San Francisco in 2004. He has published fiction, non-fiction and poetry in Alexandria Quarterly, Cold Mountain Review, Hotel Amerika, Nimrod, Orange Coast Review, Paterson Literary Review, The Santa Clara Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Surfer’s Journal and W42ST. Porter is a graduate of Rutgers University and San Francisco State University, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing.


The cheap Middle Eastern places

where we eat lunch—

the percussive Arab music,

the scent of garlic and lemons.

On Belden Place the girls sit

with coffee and Gauloises,

the menus they carried through the afternoon

at rest beside them.

A chef and his line cooks

sit on milk crates and smoke;

they wear soiled whites

and chat in Spanish.

There is a slow flood of traffic

down Market Street,

the chime of the doorman’s taxi whistle

from the front of the Palace.

Late afternoon sunlight falls

across the clock atop 33 New Montgomery.

The clouds above the Hobart Building flush,

and a cold pink light

settles on the city.

Pigeons flutter up

through the chilly shadows,

a tiara of fog

slips down the hills.

All this.

All this will desert us.


— for John Ferguson

Something here loves a road.

It’s Christmas! Oh, B-A-B-Y, let it snow!

We are so far from May,

driving toward the cusp of nativity,

enough dope to stop the Persians at Thermopylae.

Smoke gets in my eyes,

and a fairy dust has settled

on the Queen Wilhelmina Windmills of my mind.

How many of these do we have left?

Look at us driving across New Jersey

in my dad’s Land Rover

like some fucking-asshole rich kids,

about to cross the Delaware

but as revolutionary as Epcot Center,

belted into a plastic trolley,

climbing the innards of a giant golf ball.

I have dissolved into the passenger seat,

pinned like a Nabokov butterfly.

It’s a mercenary pot,

but I was never much smarter than this;

confused Susan Sontag with Erica Jong,

tried to sing along with Joan Didion.

Pennsyltucky is the longest state,

I keep emptying my pockets of miles.

I’m out of stardust kisses,

fairy godmothers and honeyed whispers.

We could drive all night, like Springsteen,

sunrise behind us as we crest western Ohio,

Route 80 all the way to Californ-i-a

sing it with me, highway children!

My heart beats the way kids skip rope,

I’m going for the record.

Button-down the window,

have to have a little bit of cold.

The Poconos seem stunted by December,

but these towns will become cities,

these loves will be made flesh.

We have finally turned 30,

and now we know,

youth is beauty, beauty youth;

we loved and lost, like everyone else.

How will this seem once we are old men?

Newman and Redford? Ha!

More like Lemmon and Matthau,

but let me have it

a twilight comedy,

Sophia Loren wrapped in mink,

Katharine Ross hanging laundry,

in a backyard west of Wilkes-Barre.

Our heroes will die and we will follow,

morphine drips and powdered eggs,

our boots a neat pair beside the door.

Yet here we are,

wheels above the highway,

impossible to see our tires

on this cold and shouldery road.

Everything I say sounds frostbitten.

I watch these woods fill up with snow,

every inch of them crowded with the dead.

The difference between immigrate and emigrate.

To travel to that world

whose margin fades for ever and ever?

No, to dust. To silence and to dust.

We have miles to go before we sleep,

This is all of Gaul from Caesar’s vantage

let’s bring these mountains to our knees.

I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.


— for Leontios

A silver rain welcomed us to Vienna.

You fell asleep in my arms during dinner

at the restaurant next to Kettenbruckengasse Station,

and I carried you home down Grungrasse.

At number three the trees leaned over the garden wall.

A breeze, damp and sweet, rippled their leaves

like the surface of a faraway sea,

and a quiet I love everywhere descended.

Stray raindrops glistened

in the bright beam of a single headlamp

affixed to the handlebars

of an old bicycle.

A gentleman in a coat and scarf

pedaled toward us,

to tell us everything is okay,

to continue on.

To put us down,

soft as starlight,

in his book of sleep.


I had forgotten

these things I love:

the cold and cloudless sky,

the soft shimmy

of brittle leaves

in a biting breeze,

the sprawl of shadows

cast across the playground

by the streetlights

as darkness arrives

in a greatcoat and top hat.

The ache in my fingers,

the mist of my breath,

as I lean over to write this.


October, and perhaps everything is a miracle:

the damp, battered Roma Transport Pass in my pocket,

the wet leaves upon the sidewalks of Testaccio,

a rainbow over the Giardino del Quirinale.

We dream of levitation,

of freedom

from the stench and strain

of our bodies,

but only death

shall release us.

Until then it is useless.

The Magdalene weeps

at the bloody feet

of the deposed Christ,

Thomas presses his uncertain fingers

into the wound,

St. Sebastian is pierced

with a quiver of arrows.

The body returns to us,

guilt and regret.

It is not enough

to be forgiven.

I want to be

garlanded, haloed, perfected—

I want to be absolved.

To feel,

as Christ must,


Enthroned above us

in the bright ether,

freed from pain.

For now I must settle for hot tea with milk and sugar

in a café at Santa Maria in Trastevere;

walking up Via Della Quattro Fontane

to hear the church bells ring

above the rain.


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