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March 5, 2018 / barton smock

{from, to, return}

from ~ everything I touch remembers being my hand ~



I ain’t been talked to in so long my wife’s kid thinks I have amnesia. ain’t been touched since Ohio’s ramshackle symbolism swallowed up some organ donor’s shadow. I went yesterday to a funeral for a woman’s ear. told people what I was wearing was a bedsheet belonged to the man in the moon. told myself I had this microscope could see a ghost and that I’ve only ever lost an empty house. I don’t know how old I am but I know what year I want it to be. before dying I saw it flash how I should have died. low creature. tugboat.


father an optometrist inspecting a replica of a totem pole and mother an eel collapsing at the thought of a play performed in a stone.

and there, at the bottom of grief, a cup of dirt with nothing to bury.


mother is chewing gum like something fell asleep in my mouth. I say dog for both dog and puppy. pray for things I know will happen. a rooster through a windshield. a dried-up toad in a deep footprint.


mother and father give their word that all narrators are orphans. that blood is a short leash. sometimes, a fence. be, they say, the symbol your god remembers you by. tell your brother to act like a chicken. your stickmen to share a toothache.


I saw a cigarette with its mouth open. today was hard. hate is amazing.

god will die with his ear on my stomach.


the darkness has many stomachs and we’ve no one to tell my son he’s lonely.

seller of the disappearing stone, the mouth names everything and is born after eating a blindfold.


for desperation, boy puts a bird in a hand puppet. here a finger and there a worm, sadness has no family. oh fetus my moth of many colors. oh mosquito that bit an angel. time with my son

in scenario’s territory.



(god is someone’s calendar


(a girl with a marble who answers to overdose


(rooster ghosted by elevator


(in my years with the poor, I wrote nothing down


(the scalp will baby its grief


on muscle detail, the clapping boy from the cult of thunder brings a wheelchair to the last rocking horse known to model swimwear for the few dolls that remain married to the same mask. the boy is weak but maybe he puts two words together. like ghost

and exodus. for the second coming of the handcuffed animal.


the boy picking flowers for my shadow loves no one. everything I touch remembers being my hand. the world has ended, or started early. god’s heartbeat. sound’s watermark.


because her son can see the future, she is not yet born. god matters to the discovered.


overtook no cigarette. surprised no sleep. keyed the car

of a minor

radar is getting possessive.


for the gone and for the nearly, brother has the same stick.

I call belly
what he calls
what answers
to limb


to speak
it needs gum
from the invisible

comes with everything. cries like me.


she says
three times
the word
to her stomach’s
and scores
sight’s wardrobe
of rags
in earworm’s


there’s a comb
in my narrative, a goldfish

coming to
in a beheaded



how to bathe
a red chameleon
from the childhood
of Moses


the boy on my shoulders says my hair is on fire. it is our longest running joke. he laughs so hard my ribs fall asleep in his childless stomach. he takes the cigarette from behind my ear…

his cough is a paintbrush. no father can kill god. the resurrected miss death.


books to step on, scarecrows

to kiss.

a thing left speechless.

a lost

the apple, the quiet. brother’s

nodding off
on library’s

door songs.

mother, mother, father-


it changed me none to see my father rubbing a lamp in a time machine. mother, too, ain’t been different


mirror miss your clock.


I lost three days of my life. four

than my father.

I am sad when two people kiss.

I appear to animal
that my brother
makes. sister

tells me
with a look
that giving
is the same
as naming
your source.

mom likes the way I say

after every


a fish looking for its graveyard

I was in the dream
I was writing


the audition calls for a woman to pretend she’s missing her right ear. a day before I’m scheduled, I wear heels and have my boyfriend mangle my left. a day after, I’m holding the baby of those who’ve never underestimated their power to look away. I don’t get the part. and mom turns it down.


I can’t write and write at the same time. there are drugs in my father’s shoe and bread crumbs in my sock. sister can sing but says church gives her two left knees. mother squeezes the hand I feel sorry for. ah, sorrow- no bird walks on water and your babies

are all


I’m sorry you have to see this. if I could starve invisibly, I would. my son’s surgeon worships ventriloquy. do you dream of the sleep you’ve already gotten? or of a thing so sad it gives birth? my abuser talks as if one can lose track of a mouth. in god’s favorite book, my ghost gets a hobby.


my stories go nowhere.

and his tree
of hunger


the evil was mine, the face wasn’t. some were delivered by one who wore a monster mask.

the smallest mouth guard. viruses

by dream


keep the baby

during thunderstorms


while pacing the hallway of a floor that elevators skip, an amateur eulogist pictures an error-prone barber in a bath of milk who gave as a gift a rocking horse with a bad stomach to a child healing a cobweb for a starless bear.



we peck
in the darkroom
at the wrist
of a fish
our body language
the baby’s



like some use an alias. fingerprints

for hand.

I was dreaming I guess
in the face of brevity

of god’s glassrabbit ocean


at a time
unlike this

the father
is all

the chicken, gone
he points

to its ghost…

my mouth
is a church, my clock
a Sunday spider

in a dry

(I’m passionate about my grief)

your shadow

dolled up
in the yard

cyborg, minotaur

not once
did I watch
them sleep


I don’t know what she saw
in that jar

but she’s been hours

my head
with a balloon…

dad switches out the bag on her head
and slips something in my mouth
while saying
in the dollhouse

I doze for a moment and see a priest
pretend to fall
from a horse, and a stork

as it should…


I see myself
a form
by a twin, a reincarnation
that perhaps

my photographer


minus the pills
by shepherd


the cause of this grief escapes me and I worry can tunnel breathe. the snake in your love letter sounds real. it takes my belly to things

that are also


dream is a boy dressed as his abuser sizing aquariums for the hand of a spider


the first person to use these steps went down these steps. violence is the new past. I see a dove and think god will never know who it was ate his crushed light bulb. I betray my ear. the seashell of the stomach.


I try, but can’t make my bed. mom says maybe I’m grief. after coming back to touch me, she wishes herself a bird.

I hope she eats.


I had a word for marble that wasn’t marble. both were swallowed.

thirst is not the same as forgetting to drink. god talks up his handicapped friend.


will I never

arachnid, a triangle

by others-

my legs make me lonely.

dream, put me down.


upon my double
being seen
I am set
to self

I am no sadder
than twin, no sadder
than dog…

my wrist
is nothing’s


no knife in the dog of absence. not a scratch on wind’s throat. winged things that belong to the tooth in your shoulder. lipstick. the unhummed ribs of your wrist.


night is the sound of my father’s adding machine. of mother narrating the life of a stone. lake is my brother’s action figure learning to swim on a full stomach. lake is a bird going from dream to dream as a mouse. hole is anything I bring home that isn’t my body. home from the city where sisters drink in silence to footnotes of future fictions.


life is a shapelessness to which form describes its pilgrimage

dream a grave dreaming
of a cactus
for nothing’s


shape is a future fashioned from god’s inability to reflect

(she thinks her hair came from an egg. she is not alone.)

there’s nothing in the food


and there I was, sad

my robot
giving hell
to an elevator

and I was forty-one
and still not there
the day that kid
got beat up
for keeping sadness

and I was never the poorest
in any room

is this what being poor means or meant

that we can brush at the fossil
of grief


suicide took the person she was named during.

I am old, here. a klutz abstaining from revelation.

bald as any
of maps.


had he not been all those years
writing a review
for the last book
in the world
my father
would’ve been
a poet

there are only so many crows
one can see
outside a laundromat
for the drowned, scarless hawks

so maternally nudged
into the travelogue
of my staying


angel of the old well
speaks to god
in rabbit, I wish

your films
were longer


I don’t know the name of the animal that slept with god. that ate the pea and left a rib. that moved the angel’s grave. with help.


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