For the curious, a somewhat random sampling below.
It Has Been a Bad Winter
from Stop Sharpening Your Knives 3
The spider from the upstairs bath,
skittering translation of a dormouse,
has disappeared–I haven’t seen it
for months. We swallow them,
in our sleep, and I am beginning to think
it crawled inside me, however many
nights ago, and now it sits cramped
and hungry in my chest, working the pulleys
and meat-grinders of my heart.
The Snake Handlers
from Stop Sharpening Your Knives 3
Gas was up to three dollars a gallon in California,
but cheap enough for us to spend the summer coasting
on church collection plates–dixie cups
of nickels and quarters’ worth of unleaded.
I played drums, a rickety set with shot threads;
by the end of the season the snare never stopped wobbling,
only the dead center was a sturdy place to hit. I’d forget
and set it shaking again, when the snakes came out.
A preacher outside Scottsboro got bit halfway
through a service. They’d just taken the first snakes
out of the plywood box, an Irish cross scratched on in marker,
and it got him in the soft meat next to his thumb.
They told us to keep playing. His hand swelled, tautened,
looking like an eggplant or melon sweating in the sun.
He sat propped against a pew while they prayed and stomped
around him. I counted the hours as we drove away.
We were crossing into Tennessee when his fever broke
or he died. I sat in the backseat, considering.
They liked having an audience–the old woman
in a navy dress, lace up to her jawbone, flicking her eyes
to mine as she passed a snake along.
That fall, we were back to college season
and anything we could get–house parties, backyards,
watching a brunette in a tank top dance, facing
the band full on, her tits bouncing against her shirt.
If I were meant to play church music I would say
she scared me more than the snakes, but I’m not,
and I missed a cue I was so busy trying to keep from getting hard.
Sometimes, when the music’s going and I see one of those girls,
eyes shiny-wet looking at us onstage, I feel my face
settle into that same look they all had.
Here’s your danger, Lord. Here’s your pride.
from The Frogmore Papers, fall 2008.
We met at my friend’s birthday party, held at her house. There was no fire,
no candles, but what I remember is warm light, flickering against our faces
and the windows. Her, tall, dressed in black, rubbing a cut tomato’s face
against bread. The eclipse outside, that I did not go to watch. A girl wearing leaves
as earrings, thin gold piped through the veins. The air a sustained exhale, a laugh.
Now her daughter has been killed: a cold beginning to the knife’s edge of spring.
There is nothing I can do. Her dog will still make his bed under the dark wood
of the side table, the wallpaper will hold itself up, the sun’s muscles will tear
and mend, stronger, little by little each day. There is nothing we can do–
not the sunlight, not the table, not the walls, not the tall windows, suddenly
–the air forcing itself into our lungs–too far away for us to touch.
22 Queen Street
from Magma, issue 42.
If I break character to speak to you, you must forgive me this indulgence:
old buildings are such a nothing, such an absence–perhaps to Wordsworth
they were meaningful, but nowadays the odd mouldering block is city strata
both expected and unnoticed. Two nights ago, a small ginger boy
threw cement chunks through my windows, moving left to right, ticking in each box.
I suppose I could tell you who lived here–their hopes and dreams, so very poignant,
but to be honest I never paid much attention. They never interested me.
They come in, they come out, carrying their bedframes and rocking-chairs overhead
like tortoises unfurled inside-out. Time passes: wires sprout inside me, veins pregnant
with foreign humming. I am a clinker-boat of blood, sprouting barnacles
of washing and satellite dishes. Don’t ask me about them–ask me instead
about the taste of the groundwater beneath me, the taste of metal I recognise
from my bones. It tastes like mold, and blood, and centuries of human soil
extruded like so much fresh cement. Two centuries from now the sea will come–
the earth turns its head toward the coast even now–and I’ll slough away
even faster. At least I’ll be out of the rain, until you fish me out, crumbled,
and slap my piecemeal fossils on a wall somewhere. I’ve heard of it done. But my bones
on your new bones won’t tell you anything, won’t speak a word. I am done
and dusted, and turning to dust window by window, tooth by crumbling
tooth. The rain comes down; how it wears upon me. You wouldn’t understand.