Stealing Copper, poems by Hank Kalet

HK Stealing Copper cover photo 1A

My newest chapbook, Stealing Copper, is now out from Finishing Line Press. You can order it from the publisher or by filling out this contact form and paying via Pay Pal:

Once I receive the form, I will contact you with payment options.



An enchanted grid

is what Hall called it,

muddy today in the rain.

Aluminum bleachers built

so we would come,

Little Leaguers, too,

and maybe the ghosts

of scandal-scarred Sox

redeemed in film

on a diamond carved

by Costner. Ha.

Father and son play catch

again, a fable of America.

Say it ain’t so,

a different film.

Shoeless Joe played

like a champ in a thrown series,

first since the war, last

before Harding

and Tea Pot Dome,

before Prohibition

and the crash. Banned

forever. Legend has it

he still played on southern

back-wood fields. Legend:

a ballfield on a hill,

where balls batted into alleys

drive us home, safe

from the shifting soil,

history, our manifest

destiny, spread ocean

to ocean, bulldozed

into existence from tall oaks

and pitch pine, fenced in,

the backstop built to corral

the wildness of the pitcher.



Hobo of the beach, you pick

at litter & wait for fiddler crabs

to peek from the sand, or for the fishermen

to turn their backs on their buckets.

We watch you — gray-streaked, the size

of the stray dog we saw sniffing

at the dumpsters behind

the Mexican take-out – as you

swoop down & sweep away

a sand-speckled, silver beach bag.

The burritos will taste good

tonight washed down with beer.

I will buy a postcard of a Mattisse

at the shop down the street & a small

hemp anklet my love will wear until

the rope weakens & it slips away

in the surf as we stand watching you,

winged pick-pocket, circling above.



The year ends as it began,

one dog asleep on the couch,

the other in the snowy yard, barking

at fireworks that pop like pistol fire,

sparks of recognition against

a dark cloak and sliver of moon,

constellations whose names

I can never remember. New year starts

as it ended, a fierce decay

in our bones when we stand

so that it’s hard not think

of the damned bees in the paper

that work themselves into a frenzy

then crash and die. The last embers’

face against the sky’s black curtain,

gunpowder on the breeze.


What they’re saying:

Kathleen Graber, author of The Eternal City, a National Book Award nominee:

Working within the tradition of such documentarian poets as Rukeyser and Reznikoff, Hank Kalet’s poems render with great sensitivity and insight both the world as we know it and the cultural traditions that inform it. The poems of Stealing Copper are often poems of a particular place and a particular people—the contemporary fraying urban or suburban landscape—and in this way, they bring to mind the kind of rare and authentic tender regard for the outsider that we find in the poetry of James Wright and the fierce political and economic critique we admire in Phil Levine. Kalet’s exquisite empathy and fine imagistic detail conjure for his readers characters who seem more likely to have appeared in a police report or those, who might seem, if not for his careful attention, too insignificant to be recorded at all.

David Daniel, author of Seven-Star Bird:

At his best, as in “Waiting for the Knucklebal to Speak,” Kalet’s poems dance through the air unpredictably, with buoyant wit, irony, and grace, and then they land–while seeming to defy it—with tremendous gravity and humanity.   While the world and lives he so carefully observes are familiar to most of us, he awakens in us the ability to see them anew, and the poems, in some sense, issue a kind of gentle moral challenge to keep awake forever to the world around us.   Oh, and they’re also a lot of fun to read.

Charles H. Johnson, author of Smoke Signals:

Hank Kalet’s chapbook “Stealing Copper” guides the uninitiated reader through America’s blighted urban landscapes  with a precision, clarity and economy of language that immediately engages all the senses. Detroit, Camden and Newark descend from mere metaphor into places where we see “Decay as  cliché’.”   Baseball, unemployment and despair create poems that are as American as a failed attempt at stealing home with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.  Yet, there are delightful descriptions of the obvious like gulls, the “Winged pick-pockets circling above.”  These poems move to the vibe of punk guitars and Philly bars where patrons still smoke.  It’s all here from Japanese monster movies aired on late 1960s’ television  to Web sites instructing you how to safely break up a dog fight. These poems, like copper wiring, lyrically reveal the overlooked infrastructure of a country desperately in need of a renewed source of energy and hope.





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