John F. Buckley & Martin Ott

John and Martin take turns writing a line or three, then emailing the other.  They refer to the process as "volleying."  John started the process back in late May 2009 when he asked Martin to provide the next two lines of a poem.  Both are equally adept at serving up the first lines, depending on who has the vision and gumption at a given moment.  But Martin is better at knowing when and how to wrap poems up.




The Darlings of New Orleans

With winds blasting consciousness as surely as
datura, Katrina left her a zombie picking her own
bones from her broken teeth. And here we are,
draining clots from antebellum atria, rinsing silt

from the drapes without hope of finding gilt flecks.
Blood and rats have been needled from the arteries,
hurricane paste raked clean from alleys, moldy
leggings waving on banisters above pale flood lines.

We sense her watery lust when the moon eye snaps
awake, and we find ourselves winking to match her.
For beads and special considerations, our shirts rise
from our torsos. We retire to the back room, still

lined in red velvet and dustflecked like beignet sugar.
Something pulses and persists. The smell of brass
bands trickles off the street and into our shoes.
We dance because we have known joy and chaos,

because the dead are restless stamping on stone
in crowded crypts, because clogged estuaries
moan from colossal friction, because vampires don't
much like flapping necks, and our flesh desires flesh.

We prance like horses ridden by loas and riddled by
mysteries, past dalliances marked by sliding lips
and twin-backed mountains of gumbo gyrations
and crab-louse etoufee, the itch of ages. We storm

imaginary bastions and fling our wet banners about.
What next in this irreverent rubicon of life and death?
The swamp distends and river sledge pumps voodoo
potions of bone meal and chemical runoff into gulf

hips. Boiling swamp cauldron and zombie politicians
raise amphibious lesions from the depths, the French
Quarter overrun with plagues of frogs, drunk on
Spanish fly, and then suddenly abandoned, the quiet

returned. There's a rhythm beyond dirges and low
crooning here, dark mistress whispers, chains of suns
unbroken by bars and whips. We quit playing peekaboo
and look lovingly at what we've hauled up from below.


Raised in Michigan but now living in Southern California, John F. Buckley and Martin Ott began their ongoing games of poetic volleyball in the spring of 2009. Poetry from their collaboration has been accepted by the Bryant Literary Review, Compass Rose, Confrontation, Conceit Magazine and Eleven Eleven.