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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 16: 1 Jan. 2023
Prose Poetry
3: 116 words
7: 120 words
11: 116 words
21: 111 words
23: 118 words
By Jonathan Yungkans

[A Quintet of Prose Poems]*


Answering Neruda (3)
Where are all those names
sweet as cakes of yesteryear?

Long steel lines of Union Pacific forgetfulness outside Salinas. Freight cars graffitied end to end, roof to rail, as if names and abstract patterns wafted in ground fog and attached themselves

in Krylon. Neon-bright cacography hugs storm-beached sailboats and motorboats at Dockweiler pointed south in a line from Santa Monica to Palos Verdes. Pacific almost black in blueness crashes

and whispers, rolling south to Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. Froth hops above repurposed concrete freeway barriers, calico with writing. White and black names. Scarlet, olive and mustard initials. A cross. As if Jesus was passing soon, treading water toward Catalina.



Answering Neruda (7)
In which window did I remain
watching buried time?

Between microscope slides of revolving doors, never boarding the train plain. Women high-heeled, jacketed, pencil-skirted. Nylon seams straight. Fedora-clad men in double-breasted suits. Listening for coded messages in stiletto taps. Hearing something anyone short of Hitchcock might find disarming as a Grace Kelly close-up—

a Technicolor reach from Mission-style white walls, hefty roof beams toward brick façade, Victorian marble lobby. A grasp for something

hand-drawn frame by frame, flickering in a darkened movie palace. Red velvet curtains. My mother crying. Her shocked look when I confessed remembering those fragments, being swaddled in her arms. Bambi’s mother had just been shot.



Answering Neruda (11)
Is the yellow of the forest
the same as last year’s?

Leaves laugh as they drop, yellow and browning. They somersault, scratch along the walkway, reminding me there’s no Día de los Muertos altar here for oranges or chocolate. A holiday watched past years from afar. Monarch butterflies as departed souls. Skeletal mariachis, serenading. Children and adults smiling, faces painted as skulls. This is the first year a skull I have known all my life returns my gaze, stares into my face. A smile I’ve missed. My neighbor insists on removing the fallen leaves. I say no thanks. He does it anyway, determined on orderly sun-bleached cement. He does not understand.



Answering Neruda (21)
And how is a sea made?4

In an early-morning flashback of coyotes chasing chase spray, catching froth in their jaws, the moon hangs between found and lost, wondering when sun might leave it to reflect in solitude. Water gleams, unintended mirror. The moon stares at the undulant, silvery surface. Listens to seagulls laugh, squeal, squawk and croon. Wishes it could sing instead of having to let waves crash and whisper in its place. It finds something beautiful hanging midair, in the melodic curve of tide striking rock. Something the moon finds intriguing, even comforting. Water catches the expression the moon makes in admiration and remembers it.



Answering Neruda (23)
Is it true that amber contains
the tears of the sirens?

Homeless woman, cross-legged and surrounded by possessions on the curb, hollers directly below her, into the storm drain in the morning coolness. Stops. Wails again, long and undulant like an old song tune. Like a hummingbird or coyote spotted in a Rorschach card. Random splotches which, at a glance, come to mean something. I hear her and, despite jangling morning nerves, note how carefully her items are laid out. Clothes. Brightly-colored plastic objects, different sizes and shapes—what exactly I can’t discern. Another almost-melody flowers from her. Couple of doors down, a liquor store’s neon window-signs glow or glower.




With one exception as noted below, epigraphs are from The Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda (copyrighted 1974), translated by William O’Daly (copyrighted 1991), and published by Copper Canyon Press (2001):

1. From Poem IX (9).

2. From Poem LXVII (67).

3. From Poem XLV (45).

4. From the poem “Emptiness” in Pablo Neruda’s collection The Hands of Day, translated by William O’Daly (Copper Canyon Press, 2008).

5. From Poem XX (20).


* For more “Answering Neruda” poems, as well as the poet’s commentary about this series, see [A Quintet of Prose Poems] in Issue 15 of MacQ.

Jonathan Yungkans
Issue 16 (1 January 2023)

is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, Gleam: Journal of the Cadralor, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published in February 2021 by Tebor Bach.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

It Belongs to Each of Us Like a Blanket by Jonathan Yungkans, Winner of “The Question of Questions” Ekphrastic Writing Challenge (Issue 15, September 2022)

Le Grand Matin by Jonathan Yungkans, a Finalist in MacQ’s Triple-Q Writing Challenge (Issue 11, January 2022)

La Porte by Yungkans in MacQ’s special Christmas Eve issue (10X, December 2021)

Two Duplex Poems, plus author’s notes on the poems and on the form, by Yungkans in Issue 10 of MacQ (October 2021)

Lawful and Proper, poem in Rise Up Review (Fall 2020)

Cadralor in the Key of F-Sharp as It Cuts into My Spine, in the inaugural issue of Gleam (Fall 2020)

I’d Love to Cook Like Hannibal Lecter [video], read by the poet at an event sponsored by Moon Tide Press (10 October 2019) celebrating the anthology Dark Ink: A Poetry Anthology Inspired by Horror

Saving the Patient, poem in The Voices Project (18 January 2018)

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