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August 17, 2018 / barton smock

{ mon . o }

thru August 20th, Lulu is offering 10% off all print books AND free mail shipping (or 50% off ground) with coupon code of BOOKSHIP18

poetry collections, mine, self-published, are here:


some recent things:

{ a gun goes off in a dream I don’t have anymore }

the root of the animal’s insomnia is not man but the fear of personification.

when my uncle was a baby, he tried to put something in his mouth but couldn’t do it.

grief is the herd my sadness trails.

my mother returns every year to the same spot as if it’s a microwave.

before he goes back to providing the radio play-by-play for an obscure sporting event, father lifts up his shirt to show me the wire jesus wore.

while smoking a cigar in the shadow of a nervous minotaur, my father wrote the book on moral isolation. in it, he predicted there would be a television show about hoarders and that it would turn god into a sign from god. my mother read the book cover to cover during her fourth and fastest delivery. if there were edits, she kept them to herself and put his name beside hers on seasonally produced slim volumes of absolute shyness.

death takes its place at the head of the table to tell the only story it knows to plates of untouched food.

trespassing, I approach two dimming flashlights set upright in cemetery mud that in your recollection are the horns of an empty beast.

as spotless as the dog left it, the baby’s room has come to mean today. above a different dog, people ask us what we’re having. we do our jigsaw of darkness. clone the ape that created god’s boredom.

I find the boy’s name on a list in another boy’s diary. a gun goes off in a dream I don’t have anymore.

{ rabbit horns }

a plastic doll with a human right hand distracts us from the parrot’s empty cage. we have been writing in unison instead of eating. our poverty is so advanced it keeps a fake diary and a real diary but hides them in the same spot.

I saw my youngest brother born. I saw his mouth. I thought he’d ripped.

the dark, the ocean. I have two reasons to believe god has not stopped creating. my anger has gone the way of the milkman. his doomed child with her piece of chalk.

it is childish how much time she thinks I have to touch everything in the store. I am slapped so hard I am sure the mirror’s memory is for show.

my father holds a cigarette above his head in a hotel shower. at home, my mother puts a clean shirt on the bed and jumps from her death.

I am secretly happy that you’ve taken an egg for each day of your life to a doll so doll can sleep. as your mother, I often follow a black ball of yarn into the lake of how you remember.

a male mime bites into a bar of soap…

her father is just as she imagines-

a man not making siren sounds pulled over by the man who is.

you will know the hoof of satan’s chosen deer by the way it glows when any female announces from the seat of a stilled tractor that she is pregnant. you will be the age of your mother’s baby bump, older than your father’s knife, and lit by the grape in god’s mouth.

I am in the saddest grocery waiting with my mother for the happiest bike repair to open.

dodgeball, no one sad.

{ gestural transportation }

in the idea, god creates only those creatures already identified by the man he can’t shake.

I am quiet but nobody listens.

I am loneliest when it’s not allowed.

after a child drowns in a child, the church bathroom is scrubbed in full view of the elderly.

while thunder remains god’s most solemn prank, the moon is the bottom of a prop tree. there are egg shells on the floor of heaven.

the bread crumbs were eaten not by birds but by a starving boy with a lost voice who’d wandered from his home in a delirium brought on by a toothache. also, Hansel & Gretel were two rich kids who killed someone’s mother.

god goes from wall to wall unaware he is god disguised as a graffiti artist.

renderings of my son on a ventilator adorn the moving city.

in flight, a wasp carries something it’s not. forgiveness works alone.

I have never seen an attractive god.

{ the upper body of the minotaur lost everything }

mother prays for odd things. like passwords. and that there be one day a mirror she can warn.

my father was born with six fingers on his right hand and seven on his left. he was not fond of either hand until later in life when the grandchildren asked him at different times during their visits if he had been tortured.

my brother says it’s part of his condition that he can only explain himself from the waist down. before I can play doctor, he remembers he has a story he wants me to write. in the opening scene a young man is blowing dust from a human skull made of plastic because it’s all the narrator can afford.

your sister is the only person on record to have been born without a gift. I was told this in confidence by an angel masquerading as a small animal the size of which escapes me.

excuse my friend his earlier joy in saying who do I have to fuck to get fucked around here. at age 19 a man exploded beside my friend and my friend went quiet and later to his grave thinking his own bomb malfunctioned.

I know it’s early but I need you to make sure there are no bugs on your father before he goes to work.

{ the home life of victims }

some bloody eared stranger at the door is listening as if to a radio where being announced by name are the blow-up dolls gone missing from the home life of victims.

in the two accepted versions of the story you have a son your husband beats. in the third and final version your three equally tall sons lift you privately from a parade honoring your nude scene. this is theirs.

similar persons of colder weather gather elsewhere and disrobe.

all await
the dog of evening.

its blindfolded boy.

he spends a few good hours trying to pin the small shadows of overhead birds beneath his feet. his wakefulness is a gift handed down by a sister he had to stop making up.

I squeeze my infant son until he is young enough to remember impressionism’s grocery.

I skin my knee a total of three times. I begin seeing Jesus but only when I’m awake. he demands nothing. he is thankful for my knee and for my indifference. he speaks so fondly of my braces I leave them on my teeth a year too long. my father has me put my head back mornings before church so he can run the hair dryer on low over the open ache my mouth has become. I talk on purpose when he does this and he laughs and forgets about my mother who smokes on the roof in her Sunday beast.

{ materials & brevities }


poverty has its own alphabet. we speak only to expand our understanding of what came second, be it silence or the ventriloquy of god. no one here has lost a baby but there are enough of us to go around. I’ve nowhere to tell you about place.

mothers, while jumping rope, reminisce on those crucifixions not postponed by thunder.

nostalgia no longer has a church.

if these are your children, I’ve lost years keeping them away from bugs.

like her, I’ve never seen her starvations touch.

it’s like waiting for god to donate hair.

I hate baseball but enjoy covering my left hand. headache is the pearl of birth.

a painting of your whereabouts. the popcorn stoning of your first wheelchair. soft edits. pentagram. spider.

the look of a thing that wants no hands.

eating for the child lost by ghost, you are the second of three people who know god’s middle name. oh how I’ve written to avoid reading. to impress death.

a babysitter’s tattoo. the bird-sleep of ache.

she is cooking with the father of an ex-lover a meal for someone who’s just had surgery. god is there but might as well be listening for thunder. she hopes the dream is not a big deal.

god twisted her ankle on a toy phone while thinking of the child you love least. mother was passing for an underwater attraction based on the inherited imagery of oblivious angels. photo credit had been done to death.

an aversion to sleeping on my stomach. needing to be alone after eating in front of people. my father asking in the library for books on Nagasaki. field trips to indian mounds where bullies would worship my retainer and put mud in my mouth. my permissive mother and her essays on the grief of a social god. not understanding how in some films there were women speaking on what was heard in the distance and how in others just men sitting around to surprise satan. my brother threatening to run away and me showing him how my ghost would look breaking his toys. sticks from a dogless future.

the voice of god is the light by which a cricket kills its ghost. grief the chosen dress of our no-show photographer.

if told by your hands to set myself on fire, I would pray my father into a snake and death would cry in a whale for every bee that lost its voice.

{ materials Q & A }

Q: what is a ghost?

A: you have a mom and god finds out

you have to count them quickly, the bite-marks on my son’s arm. either you touch a goldfish or become a dentist. does it matter whose dream my mouth is? make art and make it empty. god has run out of room.

it gave me nightmares, from mating call to church bell, that air conditioner in our third floor window. thematically, the poor are closer to death. my people don’t move. god is where you left him. god where I put.

as you do not struggle to recall the titles of those empty sermons we composed while biking uphill after our sister’s head, I tell you that a baby eats like jesus in a haunted house and that dad was right the lawnmower dies because it knows where in the yard his mom was deep enough to bury doll and I deny that hibernation is real

(is more a ghost started by two wise men dressed as animals

{ god’s blue puppy }

mother & father if you want to help there are two images left

memory has all the time in the world. three babies are carried from church for crying, or one baby for crying thrice. I orbit the idea of an animal not thinking of itself. my transparent sister wants to be a surgeon. if you remember, brother made for the groom a bible so light it could be held by a cobweb. and then it was.

you will have to trust that my parents entered the world after a long absence and that they brought with them no appetite large enough to entertain a child whose sole skill was to avoid being eaten.

I am watching my younger brother roll his ankle wearing high heels. a boy with a stick is a boy with a wand. kids die in their sleep because they are boring. because they dream of things that can really happen.

I smoke a joint in a barn and worry I will see a barn owl that will crush my barn owl dreams.

I wake up behind the wheel of a car just in time to kiss the driver’s neck and the driver makes a fish face so horribly that a child giggles in hell and there is no place where nothing should be

a woman with a spotted neck asks me for a drag as if I’m hoarding flashbacks. is my son still sick? would amnesia know it’s outnumbered? in country, I knelt openly. the daughter of a spineless mother was delivered without incident but in high school began to smell like gunpowder. an ant carried an ant from the shadow of a mushroom like luggage.

touch your father
see if your mother
comes back

death is never early. take the first bite of every meal in front of a mirror. rename fish for the winners of midwestern game shows. chase the kid while pulling a plastic bag over your head. invent a sibling schoolmates blind. know poverty, know moon. shampoo the elderly from a distance. baby no one. they have looked like hell since before you were born.

the doll’s feet stick out from under a hotel bed marooned in the ceiling’s mirror. across town, a silent alarm is pressed by the anonymous smoker of wedding cigarettes.

siblings form a circle around a one trick pony. some believe the jack-in-the-box is broken while others believe it’s patient.

fuck that first kick in the oblivious virgin and those mating rituals observed by the responsibly poor…

object permanence is a rabbit named vertigo

online I find instructions on how to make my own scarecrow. I wake my sister and have her put on her pajamas while I take the overcoat my father is using for a blanket. when we’re an error of a mile away from everything, when we are not siblings skin-to-skin in an unmarked life, I have to push the ATV with my sister on it. she is crying about flooding and I’m telling her what the scarecrow will look like. she wants it to have a cape. because my son isn’t born yet, there’s not much to like.

no, not a dog digs in the dollyard of my adult sleep. but there are nights when the bones of my most afflicted boy are the bumps that stir his siblings to spoon each other and in the morning I tell them how their grandfather, propelled by the moth in his mind, walked three times into our door to rid his head of his god, of his wife, and of the secret knock they shared.

after his suicide he writes he’ll be back with a note so perfect

holding a baby as if she’s had it thrown at her, my mother steps out of a museum. it has stopped raining. it has also stopped snowing. in god’s blue puppy.

{ materials }

eating before surgery, the child is like a dream cut short by a violence that promotes longing

boomerang or pop-gun, grief makes its choice. your father hides his blurry hand might god invent scissors. there is a model of your city and some leftover glue.

you are not allowed in the barn where underway is a puppet show for which your father dreams. instead of holding your breath, you are catching grasshoppers and keeping them for an amount of time your sick sister would call ridiculous. you are too young to know, but know anyway, that your dentist prefers the rhythm method. I am sorry for the things you know. for our hearing of this riddle mistaken for language and for any mouth openly tricked into being small. space is not lonely but we were wrong to change our poems.

who better to orphan the cyclops than she whose other possession is a neglected baby breathing on its own in the flawlessly managed absence of god

too old now for baptismal abandon, my dreams eat the pigs that Dorothy touched

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