Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Leonard Gontarek Reveals That Perfume Is The Gateway Drug



Tell me about yourself in a 100 words or less.


I have always believed, if it is not broken, don’t fix it.
I who believe it is not broken. I have never trusted the TV version
of autumn over autumn. I am only interested in people
who have fallen in with anything. It looks like I brought a haiku
to an epic fight. I was there the day the music cried.
My cat hung up on you. I am not good at lying.
I have a sacred heart.
I have difficulty telling the Mysterious Universe
and the Outside World apart.


He sits on a bench refolding the map, with difficulty,
now that he knows where he is going,

The bouquet next to him
may be a gift, may have been given to him.  

He is on morphine.
He is wearing alligator gloves.

Poetry must change the world.

Santana is playing at a party in the past,                               
so loud you think the party is outdoors.


A single syllable of lily, before night.


Mostly green, but gold too,
trees are ejected into the day.
The book says the voices of children
arise clear in spring like toys,

balls or kites, miraculous and
loud, and it is so.

The silence is a public garden.
You go there for the scent of water,
the statues of angels and monsters
and lovers, the magnolia.

You cannot see the future.
It is out of view of the window,
to the west. Darkness is covering the houses.
The branches are going out one by one.

The perfume is of a teenage flame.
The cat rolls in the last dazzle of light.

Each season is contained in the next,
understood simply. You cannot understand
spring, or summer. It is mysterious, as it should be.
The children have gone in, against their wishes, for dinner.             


It’s just like the chair
in my movie, I mean, dream.
There are thirteen things that matter for me here.                 


Five Hundred New
Fairy Tales Discovered
In Germany.


Newly Divorced Man
Gets Creative With
His Ex-Wife’s
Wedding Dress.


I want to be paid for the time
I go to my job in my dreams.
The minotaur in the cubicle next to me agrees.


The woman I’m with is wearing a perfume called High School.
The light is intentional.


Perfume is a gateway drug.


I feel totally safe-ish with you.


Dusk is ex cathedra. The mica-flecked dark is also.


Now that paradise is locked, where will we go?
Now that there is nowhere to go, what will we do with these brochures?
I have set fire to these messages in an ashtray many times in the last hour
and dumped the ashes in the river of wind.


Little wind.
Don’t let it in.


Everything is done. The truce is not apparent.


The world isn’t fair, ladling out light.


It’s spring. Kids run
through streets, with
cherry-stained hands, yelling,
trailing strings.


I want more than this.
I know you do.



It is the cutouts or silhouettes
of the leaves that concern
us. What is not here
is on our mind. The door

that opened out on the vista of light
cannot be seen or remembered
at all. It is suggested                                      
that the rake left out                                       

was not elegant, but may be so
now. Think along these lines.


There is only one question: How can I help?
This is a direct quote.


The man sits down at the paper
and begins to write a letter.
It is understood that there are those
among you to whom the idea of letter
will have to be explained.                              

Say you are viewing paintings in a museum
for the first time and you are transported to
a clearing and it is mildly hot.
The dragonflies are flashing and the base
of the mountain hums.
Two liters of root beer or ginger ale
are poured over you. You equate                  
this to the imagery in the paintings
you have seen and the emotion that is
stirred. It’s crazy, of course, but that is
why you’ve put pen to paper.

You add something
witty and charming because
you are writing to someone close to
you. And you sign your name.
That’s all.
Or you want to say the world is a garden.

Your small garden, which is wild, beautiful
and disordered, connects you to the larger world.
The birds make a terrific racket,                                                       

praise it and call it singing.
The soil smells like green darkness,
praise the slight air of oregano and dark chocolate.

You say you live for the civil twilight
when the bats try out the night
and the embers even out.

Say you coast in one of the boats                                          
to the center of the lake.
Tell me the silk the milkweed emits                                      

means the world to you
and you talk all day with cats and rats           
as if they understood.
Tell me you have fallen for the darkness                              
and petals, but save the last dance for me.



Item: She parked under the dogwood                        
and hoped the blossoms
would undo and cover
her dark car.
She would photograph it.

There is a mysterious
rain in the fields, I am told.

Finite amount of crows
in oak at dusk.


I would not want to seem
as if I knew something about
faith or the way to it,
if I did not.
To know a thing is simple.
When you do not know it,
it is complex, with many layers.

There are many places
I would want to return
to without a dark heart.

Now as I purchase blueberries
on the sidewalk, I see my
heart as lightened.

The wind rustles Mirror
Lake once more. The pines or reflections?
It is hard to tell.


Through the night of trees
and tree frog hum,
a clearing in the leaves.

A falls starts up. Sheet
by aluminum sheet.
Mostly gray, thunder distant in the day.

All happens so fast,
as though a letter had grown wings.

Perhaps there is a place
to set up the compass
and level,
to better see from one point to another,
the present to the past.
Maybe it is this park.                                                             

Customer Service                                          


Somehow it is my father at the customer service window.
I feel sadness. I don’t know what to do with it.                                             
He hands me a brochure to take home, to think about it later.
I realize the cicadas I heard were in a dream.
The weather breaks.
The rides at the carnival are closed.
I cannot love the past again.
The city asks, Do you desire a glass coffin?
A skyline in haze and mist.


I see a red dog and I want it painted black.
No more will my green seagull turn a deeper blue.
I want to see bats fly out from the sky.                                  
I want to see it plainly, plainly, plainly.


There is a music.
It is like when you are reading and listening to music.
The story is longer and more drawn out.                               
There are people here and there.
You interact and four-hundred pages later you interact again.
Music, on the other hand, happens inside.
You are not really thinking about it.
It is a river.

            (after Richard Aldrich)


The weather breaks. I realize
the cicadas I heard were in a dream.
I feel a sadness I do not know what to do with.
One that overcomes and confounds.
The rides at the carnival are closed.
I cannot have the past again.
A city skyline in a mist of heat and exhaust.
The wind asks, Do you desire a glass coffin?
Somehow it is my father at the customer service window.
He hands me a brochure to take home, to think about it later.

Leonard Gontarek’s recent book is He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs
A new book of poems is forthcoming from Hanging Loose Press in 2016.
In 2015, his poem, 37 Photos From The Bridge, was a Poetry winner for the Big Bridges
MotionPoems project and the basis for the winning film from the Big Bridges poetry/
film contest sponsored by MotionPoems and the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.


  1. I am such a fan of Gontarek's sectioning within his poems. Each unit its own piece of art, interlocked to seemingly varying degrees with the units around it. His poems mirror leaps of thought.

    And I too want to paid for the time I am at work in my dreams.

    Customer Service was a strong favorite, though all of these captured my imagination.

  2. Lovely. Also a fan of Gontarek. Thanks for this post!

  3. Leonard Gontarek does believe that poetry will change the world. Read his poetry and it's a safe-ish bet you will agree. Unless, of course, you can't tell the difference between the Mysterious Universe from the Outside World.

  4. Lovely. Also a fan of Gontarek. Thanks for this post!

  5. aldona middlesworthFebruary 23, 2016 at 9:01 AM

    Leonard Gontarek's poetry is an inspiration! My favorite of these particular poems so far is the one called Apart!

  6. What a mysterious and lovely journey. Each piece of poem a part of the whole, each a leaf on his entire tree. I love these lines: I have difficulty telling the Mysterious Universe and the Outside World apart. I love when he tells us: There are many places/I want to return/ to without a dark heart. By the end, you know he has returned, without a dark heart. You know you are traveling with him both inside the mysterious and outside, in this amazing world.

  7. So many wonderful lines, illuminating and also funny. I like the wry, sly humor that emerges, and that reveals us to ourselves: "I brought a haiku/to an epic fight;" "I want to be paid for the time/I go to my job in my dreams./The minotaur in the cubicle next to me agrees;" "The woman I'm with is wearing a perfume called High School;" "I feel totallly safe-ish with you." "I see a red dog and I want it painted black." Then there are lines of great soulfulness and exquisite tenderness: "Now that paradise is locked, where will we go?" "He sits on the beach refolding the map, with difficulty,/now that he knows where he is going;" "The silence is a public garden./You go there for the scent of water,/the statues of angels and monsters/and lovers, the magnolia;" "It's spring. Kids run/through streets, with/cherry-stained hands, yelling,/trailing strings;" "There is only one question: how can I help?" "Each season is contained in the next,/understood simply. You cannot understand/spring, or summer. It is mysterious, as it should be," and section 3 of "Rake," in which the speaker is writing a letter. "Tell me you have fallen for the darkness/and petals, but save the last dance for me." I like the way the words "sadness," "garden," and "brochure" recur.

  8. What a compelling, soul-searching, perfume strewn, less than“totally saf-ish” path Gontarek takes! The last 2 lines of St.1, Apart—sets him“apart” as the more than skilled poet he is and deeply unites him with his readers.
    I’m struck by “trees are ejected,” “the world isn’t fair, ladling out light” and especially the “direct quote” “How can I help?” I’m glad too there’s a “last dance.”
    The finding of a place, perhaps in nature, to gain perspective from past to now—” and level”, a poignant goal. Gontarek realizes the past is ended. He asks deep questions about death and he hears fatherly advice to “think about it later.”
    This poem, a lasting gift of light . (Betti)

  9. About halfway through reading this sequence of poems, I had to get up from the table and walk around my kitchen for a minute. What? It is disorienting and wonderful to have the words of another speak to you in the voice of your own heart. I want the blossoms to "undo," yes, and to go where I don't know and be amazed with the Minotaur. What welcome companions these words are, for the journey. And having circled the kitchen again, I feel the urge to go and write something myself. Thank you for these.

  10. The woman who wanted dogwood blossoms covering her dark car speaks to the romantic poet's sense of imagery. Whimsy brings a light touch to lasting memory. In thirteen things that matter, Leonard's signature creative humor has a romp from "newly divorced man gets creative with his ex-wife's wedding dress" to High School, the name of the perfume worn by the woman he's with. Disjointed bits of information flow like our thoughts in meditation. If they enter our conscience, they must belong there.