Nathanael Stolte

Age of Miracles

For Theodore E. Stitzel


A flash flood on August 10th 2009 put Gowanda underwater and saved my life. That part of New York was baptized in river water and loam. The river took life and washed things away. The river claims and spares of its own accord. A force beyond my reckoning. I was scheduled to go to a dry-out camp there when the waters came. Ironic, but maybe that’s the rivers sense of humor.

Instead I ended up at a camp on the grounds of the bug-jar on Forest Avenue in Buffalo. I couldn’t make it to sundown without pouring something through my body, brain, and soul. I went there lit up, on the nod, thirsty, desperate, and mad. I met a kid there. Not a patient, not staff, no PhD or delusions of altruism. Just a kid with a message of hope. A candle in the darkness. When I got out he spoon-fed me truth and direction. If I had gone to Gowanda, who knows where I’d be today.

Yesterday, I opened a book of lovely poems by my friend Lynn Ciesielski to a poem called "Deluge." Her poem was about a life that was lost in that flood. I feel a connection to the man who drowned. I know what it’s like to drown. For him it was the mud and river. For me it was the stem, the bottle, the rig, the weight of this world and everything in it.

My thoughts are with him today as I try and discern Gods will. Pondering a force that floods a town I’ve never been to, culminating in a miracle in my own life, is beyond my scope. Feeling miniscule and necessary is humbling.

Maybe that’s the lesson.
Maybe that’s Gods will.
Maybe that’s the miracle.
After all, we still live in the age of miracles. 


Nothing That Casts A Shadow

And in the dream
Everyone wore nametags
That displayed their dietary needs
You were there
Yours read something like
Nothing that casts a shadow

Fire doesn’t have its own shadow
But draws them from other things
Fire is the source not the shadow
I never saw my nametag
I can only assume it read
Ash and shadow
The remnants

And then there was another dream
You were there
But it was the same dream
About a poem
You know
A profound line
Not just clever plagiarism and

I awoke to alabaster
Latticed sunlight
Barging through the Venetian
Blinds of my bedroom window
The line
(The poem
The thought)
Was blurred
Overexposed by the dawn 



That was the summer
I only washed my hair in cold water and gasoline.
When I discovered the wind speaks backwards nonsense
A prayer with the leaves.
I oiled the hinges of my shadow and opened up.
Emptied myself of all of the things I had gleaned from the playground,
The milkman, the lessons of the broom—
And from you.
To become something that you might call savage.
I found that candlelight reveals the galaxies stowed in the eyes.
Food stamps and commissary
Won’t buy burial mounds
In the oversold cemetery,
So we buried our own dead
First with and
Eventually without ceremony.

That was the summer
I brushed my teeth with Sterno
Until my beard grew into a catfish and
We all looked a little animal.
I slept with my boots on and swatted flies with my tail.
We smoked with hot knives
Bartered in stick ‘n’ pokes, stolen bicycles and mischief.
We baptized each-other in salt, tears and cedar.
We carried water in our packs, in our humps, in our dreams.
We made stew in a broth of used motor oil,
Bones we had picked clean,
Rinds, peels, skin, crust, lint, tobacco crumbs and
Whatever we had in our pockets.
But we ate our fill until we were nothing but bones, skin, and crust.
We licked every plate clean so no one ever had to do the dishes. 
That was the summer
The well intentioned vegan girls next door called the ASPCA.
We were fattening rabbits up for the coming winter.
The officers came and hauled them away.
Whatever fate befell them,
Befalls me and you.
They were probably gassed, spoiling the meat.
They thought they were doing what was right.
So did we.
Can’t blame a pure heart for the atrocities of slaughter. 


Trans Substantiation


i used to have a job as a voodoo doll
in the slaughterhouse that never closes
ran by a niveous mortician
where bullets were the only seed
that could take root
in acrid soil
planted amongst the sycamores
sprouting wicked trees
a lumberyard for fool martyrs
pinned to their extent
ready to slump to the ground—



then i worked as a blade
a tool
a silvery cosmic knife
honed by a churlish woman
with sharp teeth and no scars
who could only be described as alien—
gaunt as the butcher gleaming
until the cleaver was too thin
she gave
both barrels—
to all four chambers 



now i am the millstone
marked by angel feather
and devil tongue
transmitting gentle anger
with the anarchists violin
getting quiet—
         in shards
         of the broken hour-glass 


Nathanael William Stolte is a Buffalo native, madcap, DIY poet. He co-hosts Ground and Sky, a monthly open reading (every first Thursday of the month at Rust Belt Books on Buffalo's West Side). He is the author of three chapbooks and co-founder of Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective, a trio of young poets attempting to make poetry more approachable.