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April 17, 2019 / barton smock

{ returning / we brought home the wrong dying baby / food / soft facts / separations for unlikeness / ohio deaths / spiritual correctives / materials }

I.

RETURNING
{entries 1 thru 25}

~~~~

god’s brain in a small hat

(rabbit)

from surgeries
and gardens

a crownless mouth

~~~~

my angel is a scarecrow in a sleeping bag. heaven a movie theater in spain. she walks that way because she is trying to step on her blood. the boy at the gate is lost and must choose either frankenstein’s childhood or a more diverse nostalgia. orphans on earth smell like bread.

~~~~

there are pictures of me sleeping that are responsible for my brother cheating on his diet. apples the shape of going home. sex addicts fighting to direct a musical about the number of people disappearing

to let death
mourn. there is a chair in an open field. a throbbing in the palm of sound’s publisher. a kid under a blanket asking god

when did she know
what perfection
was. a mouth that was a bomb

/ before I had teeth

~~~~

with sound
the second language
of absence, with

mother, bible, bee

(I am trying to memorize missing you

~~~~

god as a girl reading her father’s fanfiction

fixing her mother’s
ghost town
water fountain, then god as a boy

tired, in a dream

~~~~

you think we are the same.
your unlearn, my re-know.

our place wants the person I’m from.

church
of the removed
stitch. what I would bite

to have your mouth.

~~~~

in the history of newborns
not one is named

shelter, and we’ve called

only two
attraction…

my dream priest
dies
in the desert
after making
with death
a movie, no…

the blood’s
search
for brain

~~~~

they took
the body

lamb
stayed with star

~~~~

you can train
a bird
but not
a fish
to care

for a thumb…

fire is the skin of god

~~~~

a father
at peace
with how many times
his hair
has died
is standing
in a museum
before the shell
of a giant
turtle

his infant’s mouth
has gone home
to lose
its shape

he is alone
like any
grocery cart

some
cribs

~~~~

all information
new

your abuser
could’ve joined
the circus
his chewing gum

the age
of your mouth

~~~~

when drinking, I think maybe in a past life I also drank.

sorry, poem. absent
your suicide
hypotheticals

we all
speak silence

~~~~

I never heard my father cough

I must
to say so
be dying

insect is a thing
cannot be
surrounded

the rich have their ghosts and the angels

their seaweed

~~~~

I exist / too / often

(it’s okay)

his father
had a beekeeper’s
wave

the recurring dream of my blood

is loss. dear ma,

your book
how to appear
edible
to a thoughtless
creature…

I don’t know. birth is whose

burned
hand

~~~~

death in its dream home
had a psalmic
memory
to rival
odd-numbered

women. hell was empty

and we wrote

what words
believed

~~~~

is it written or is it said that the word tells you its language?

I built my house around a crying baby.

Q: sister spotlight has a brother

A: whose blood is a stop sign

~~~~

long gone are the insects
you forgave

this storm, the whale
of oblivion’s
white feast, this moon

the word
moon

~~~~

childish nicknames for the messiah

these desperate meditations
on the ghost
of a sober
twin

I am not death but enter
like it
the church
of so many
canceled
spelling bees
to ask
whose punishment

for being born
am I

~~~~

father is sitting in that snowplow like he’s seen every baby and mother is mock burying herself as if daring the holy spirit to make a fist

and sister wants to weep
for an eyelid or hear
a helicopter

and the heart has too many ghosts

~~~~

I go places
in my ghost
that are children
when I arrive. they call me

high grass, lord
of the wind’s
blood. most of them

have lost
babies
with dog
names
to birth
or touch, our brief

attractions
to déjà vu

~~~~

the father is a shepherd in a hall of mirrors. the son a man on all fours salvaging a puzzle mothers use to predict snowfall. we have goats but they act like goats that deep down know they’ve been imagined. the daughter is a hallucination color prays to.

the goldfish a marble from the psalm of dry lamb.

~~~~

in this dream, the father stops halfway up the ladder and blows on his hands. starvation is a drowsy snake. the dream has time to think and figures existence needs a distraction. when my son bites himself, it is because his teeth are feeling lost. I offer him to the dream but he is not godless enough to throw his voice. are you sick in a language that has a word for what you have? skin is the longest dream.

~~~~~

he takes baths instead of showers

the boy
who believes
in ghosts

~~~~~

to be unthought of is to be one more person away from pain. no cricket you hear is alone. in my boy’s drawing of jesus, the ears are all wrong. his first sad poem is about an oven. his second calls dust the blood of a seashell. his third is so terrible that I tell my friends I’m just a gravedigger who wants to open a hair salon. my friends they are made of grief and brilliance. they say they like mirrors that have in them, how do I say this?, a lost theft. I sleep and my sister paints my nails. kisses my head. she is no shape and then a shape that occurs to a horse my son thinks will live.

~~~~~

this was after your brother had died everywhere

I was calling shotgun for poverty’s mistress
during a game of shirts and skins

I think by then
jesus had fed
nearly two of the five
thousand
with a sunburn
and an ambulance

& most animals were still having four dreams)

anyway, something flew into your mother’s mouth
and the look on her face
told nobody
it had teeth

~~~~~

II.

WE BROUGHT HOME THE WRONG DYING BABY

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.

~~~

atavism

(god is someone’s calendar

valley

(a girl with a marble who answers to overdose

pulpit

(rooster ghosted by elevator

subculture

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

alpenglow

(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
toymaker.

radar is getting possessive.

~~~

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

I call belly
what he calls
eye
what answers
to limb

~~~

to speak
it needs gum
from the invisible
purse.

comes with everything. cries like me.

~~~

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

~~~

there’s a comb
in my narrative, a goldfish

coming to
in a beheaded
angel

~~~

III.

FOOD

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.

animal
a thing left speechless.

night
a lost
suitcase.

the apple, the quiet. brother’s

double
nodding off
on library’s
secret
horse.

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

since.

mirror miss your clock.

~~~

I lost three days of my life. four

less
than my father.

I am sad when two people kiss.

I appear to animal
sounds
that my brother
makes. sister

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

mom likes the way I say
hypochondriac

after every
meal.

~~~

a fish looking for its graveyard

I was in the dream
I was writing
down

~~~

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
neck.

~~~

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.

god
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

transmitted
by dream

~~~

keep the baby

eats
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.

~~~

IV.

SOFT FACTS

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

~~~

body

like some use an alias. fingerprints

manna
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
appetite

the chicken, gone
he points

to its ghost…

my mouth
is a church, my clock
a Sunday spider

in a dry
toilet

(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

rubbing
my head
with a balloon…

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

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

act
as it should…

~~~

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

my photographer
son

~~~

pills
minus the pills
given
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.

then

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.

~~~

what
will I never
see

lost
arachnid, a triangle

drawn
by others-

my legs make me lonely.

dream, put me down.

~~~

upon my double
being seen
I am set
to self
destruct

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

my wrist
is nothing’s
neck

~~~

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
crow

~~~

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
close

and I was never the poorest
in any room

is this what being poor means or meant

grief
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
lover
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

jack-in-the-box
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.

~~~

V.

SEPARATIONS FOR UNLIKENESS
{entries 1 thru 27}

god bless the hypnotist who takes up smoking when it goes uncured (my transformative stutter…

god bless the breathing machine, the fog…

the donkey so beaten it recalls itself as a whale’s untouchable nose…

and god bless god for my short life as a father, for my son who says, meaning eyelash (cyclops…

~~~~~

it’s not my imagination that I’m the only foreigner my body recalls, but is that god can change with my stomach the shape of his tears

~~~~~

waiting for her cigarettes to dry, mother starts a bath and says above them that it’s not like any of you are becoming a rib. death, short a person, continues to eat the language god hasn’t. trauma makes a compass of time and place

and brother is not yet the sitting creature of a thoughtless life. I am not there but am allowed to be. I so miss birds.

(the ghost fame of each tadpole

~~~~~

a shadow’s private gravity (a fly on a grieving radar

~~~~~

the boy whose clothes have been taken will swim for hours and for hours know why the soul hides death from god

~~~~~

do they not
look

finished

ear to ear, the toddlers…

their tornado
still theirs, and today’s

sermon
still in the mind
of their mother’s
exterminator
boyfriend
who is having a thought
as rare

as his past, of a god

spotting
from a cobweb
a carcass

and deciding

~~~~~

apparition, or mom
at her most forgetful.

mouth, a shapeshifter’s
chew toy
godless
as a belly button
and babied
by grief.

face, face.

~~~~~

tell me again
how it is
that dream
stops
tooth decay
in angels / why it is

that I can hear
in the darkroom
post-god
the ghost
muscle

of weeping

/ when it was they found the suckling

and not the bones
of a wave

~~~~~

not uncommon in a household of grief

for one
to be bad
with names.

(the radio
an animal
that misses
its bones

~~~~~

I would ask that you name
your dog
loss
is not
a teacher (then love a longer kitten

(like an angel
might
an ashtray, more

even
like your mother

a thing on its way
to being

bird
(or shaped

~~~~~

I eat more in your absence than you do in mine. our animals never meet. I’ve a painting and you’ve a picture of eve reaching for an aspirin. an angel is a ghost on fire.

~~~~~

pushed a lawnmower. jumped on a trampoline. ate with symbolism the freer meals. painted for death what death could sell to a mirror. accused my hair of arson.

~~~~~

before an astronaut can miss a tooth

I see my mother

her face
in a cobweb

~~~~~

pushes
every smoker
a grocery cart
for a six-
fingered ghost

not

true
all children come from god

(the theatrical
parent

~~~~~

there are ways to be happy. you can say priestess and watch your father’s cigarette slip in and out of sleep. you can crush a pill for the dog that’s begun to move like the rabbit it died chasing. you can lick the spoon the mirror’s

(map

~~~~~

father likes to say that touch has lost its mind. mother

be like hunger
and forget
nothing.

(the boy is the boy who teaches death
to read
and I am sad
for death
for years

(in the toy aisle, in a circus
restroom, at the roll

of my son’s
spotless
eye, and at the gate

of the all
girl
cemetery

(also shyly

in the more traditional
babies
of god

(their hesitant
fatigue

~~~~~

in those moments when non-fiction scares only the grey brainchild of poverty

(that fucking angel disrobing a stone with fog…

please read
to feel
nothing

~~~~~

how long
for being god
should god
be punished

to how many mothers have you reappeared

are these
the pebbles

fingerprint and footfall

(have they been
betrayed

~~~~~

match your mouth to its bowl
and lift the bowl

it is very light
be as with
a beaten
angel (careful

lullaby baby out of its hair
hold me (like death

will
as you’ve seen
a brain

(does it look
in places
like a ransom
note

the skin
god hasn’t

~~~~~

the relationships you have with my body
and the relationships
I

(if there’s a god
then why
seed

(a son this ill

an angel
obsessed
with paperbacks (is this

Ohio

or a gift shop where none have prayed

~~~~~

a dog-tamer by day, he’d lose at night his stomach’s paw to a sleepy hand. not there to feed anything, I’d set anyway a fishbowl down for a rocking horse. sometimes a woman would shock me with her finger then put on her shoes. then leave or not exist.

~~~~~

being earlier drawn to a pilot’s imperfect nostalgia,

a hypothetical form
goes online
to cry…

(eyesight is sorrow’s smallest garden
(a whole

church
for the errors
of fiction

~~~~~

a shirtless child sets my food on fire. I want to cut myself but part of me is still teaching god air guitar in an outhouse. stun gun. riding mower. I learn how to point and bulimia

is the ghost

anorexia
isn’t.

mother, in goodbye, means goodbye.

~~~~~

there is
oh sin

a firefly

in my grief.

& the eater of chalk has the body of god.

~~~~~

look long enough
at a bird
it becomes
a bird.

frog
a boy

both arms
broken.

~~~~~

sheep because sheep looks as if it’s waiting for an angel to have a thought and sheep because the saying of sheep guides the mouth into silence and sheep because if you close one eye in church

the circle my son draws looks like a fish

and circle because I made for it a church and church because he once saw a rabbit that wasn’t and a stomach that was and the two of you

we could not lift

~~~~~

the abusive baby
with its crying (or

the blue
saint

with its bruising
thirst (will turn

the knob (the clock

of the door

~~~~~

VI.

OHIO DEATHS
{entries 1 thru 19}

every stick I throw

a ghost
of my grandfather’s
wand—

I don’t throw many
it is not a sight
to see

not some cow nudging awake the weakest deer

not pipe tobacco, not smoke, not that spider
from an injured
fog

not a small child
a dog even

trying to use
a spoon

~~~~~

god’s been gone nine months and all this talk he’s done of being stabbed in a dollhouse struggles to fill a baby

(do animals have songs

do they know

to miss
missing (leave the bragging

to grief

~~~~~

handstands and loneliness- what infantile reactions we have to existence. I want to eat

but how will they know there was nothing here (this finger

once a rib in the back of your throat

~~~~~

my son knows his birds by the hands he draws for them. anatomy is perhaps what you make it. grey bruise, blue tongue…

this dream goes nowhere. hell, these chickens

(as if their god was struck by a ghost

~~~~~

this body was never a child

(& birth a spoon
bent to the little

I long

~~~~~

father cuts my hair as something gentle he can do underwater. he’s broken the bowl that caught his mother’s mouth. we have our mirrors and you your nets. I am the last of his one-eared boys.

~~~~~

his cigarette going bald, father prepares his food while we touch ours. god swims long enough to miss wind. if there are two babies in the same room, they switch cribs but not teeth. god is a time-traveler selling nostalgia. I can never remember which of mother’s ears is insect and which is litmus. it’s always the second meal

comes from heaven

~~~~~

I want to be loved so badly that I promise your raccoon the sea. dying means:

my boy falls asleep drinking from a toy boat. god has no friends but even better

my mother has one was born

without a birthday. can an angel

do this? says ghost.

(grief is a thing taught to breathe by its stomach

~~~~~

it’s dark and all of us are in the wrong stone.

the floor is clean where I learned my shapes.

~~~~~

I cut the pills
sometimes
in advance. (love

that no matter
the day, there are three

god spent
with his son.

~~~~~

(between

online
searches
for tire
swing (mother

sells chalk
to a ghost

~~~~~

I didn’t miss god or think I was ugly. had mud enough
to make
from memory

the scarecrow’s
stomach. I ate my brothers

they ate
me back. any loss

became a hole
in a snake, any needle

a worshiped
feather…

~~~~~

think of wind as a thing that’s mastered its nothingness.

cradle
the unfinished.

yes think, then cradle.

hands shape their own leaving.

~~~~~

I wait in the outhouse to hear the ghost of my brother speak.

time
to him

is grief gets a puppy, spider
a tail

(in the story of the fish
that wanted
to pray

~~~~~

mom says she ain’t had a dream since trying to bring jesus there to hear her poem about the fetus and the bookmark as found in her collection (a warning describes home to a crow

~~~~~

because in an insect, terror has no room to grow. because I can count on a handprint the number of times you thought me from nothing. because my daughter does a somersault and thinks she’s pregnant. because god worships the storm for its light touch. because I can’t sing. because when I do, my mother knows where I am. because on all-fours I call my blood to bathe me in its blue past. because loss eats its plate. because I brush my teeth over a circle my son will make in dirt. because his ghost mans a ferris wheel he refers to as piggyback. because my father can forgive a shape and I cannot a poem.

~~~~~

I wore
to bed
a dog’s
collar
and in
the dream
broke your leg
on mine
do you remember
being spanked
the ant
on your cheek
lonelier
than a stick

(I think
god
he put
my hand
in a hand
done
with growing (there is

the star I sleep under

the toothache
you

~~~~~

god is the word food spells in my mouth.

you have to be this tall
to be hungry.

(there is a ghost looking for its rock collection)

our absence
unheard of

~~~~~

up at this hour
with my thumb
in my mouth…

older
than mine
your missing
child…

the spider

it’s thrown itself on a drop of blood

~~~~~

VII.

SPIRITUAL CORRECTIVES

you think
you might
be art. her mastering

of his blindspot
for imagery…

(every rock you throw is a bird that can’t breathe

~~~~~

sons says he falls asleep reading to his teeth. son whose size has gone to confess.

put

oh son

god’s hand
through a wall. a fingernail

on my tongue (rib

in luck’s
grave

~~~~~

I don’t have time
to be smart
but everyone
in this movie
thinks a snowglobe
is a moth
on fire

for years I thought the pain I was eating came to my mouth in a dream

argument for there is: were it otherwise,
we’d both be the child of two rotting forms

argument for there is no: a country dog
nodding headcounts
to a family
of sticks

~~~~~

about the birdhouse
dad found
in a church-

I ask
the wrong
storm

is your son a mouse

chewing
on a star?

our blood
wants to pray
outside

~~~~~

the worst advice that hunger gives is to dream of eating.

let your mail tell you where to live.

let there be
in god’s mouth

a bread crumb dressed as a fingerprint.

the shape of this stone makes me worried for symbols.

~~~~~

sobbing

(a form
of abuse

sleep

(god
mid-miracle
dies

saltshaker

(the cowbell of grief

sobbing

(there is a boy
for every
boy

born

(outnumbered

window

(they caught the person who was painting our baby blue

~~~~~

smoking over the empty crib, he calls anything that’s crawled on me the lost hand of god. I don’t care if you’re alone. for the skydiver (whose thoughts on crucifixion

~~~~~

if presence

be a nakedness
survived
by nostalgia
and by
homage, then presence

a milk
in memory
of shape

or shape
oh shape

would-be astronaut

your head
is too small
(but oh how light

the gun you make
of your hand

I am not as alone as I remember

or only
our only

possession

(the belly-dancer’s
muted
radar

~~~~~

VIII.

MATERIALS
{entries 1 thru 30}

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
oh 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.

~~~~~

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

~~~~~

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.

~~~~~

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

~~~~~

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

~~~~~

as hunger’s sole worry is that revenge has no one, I do not reply when the boy gets an erection so painful that he says he can see me sleeping in his past. what does your stomach know of mine? to believe in beauty is to let blood do all the work.

~~~~~

it’s midnight and our mail carrier is trying to recall aloud a proverb in a language she doesn’t know. her hound, barefoot and dressmaker, has two names. she wants to smoke but can’t bring herself to imagine god’s forgotten thumb. her tv is on and I watch it as if dreaming was always a sin.

~~~~~

it skips our father like a language the meal she pulls from her tinfoil purse and god he stops at the roof of my mouth and brother short of beheading an egg…

(fluency

our only comet

~~~~~

grief the star of my overlong nostalgia
& owl the mouth I put on god

(in dream the embedded curfew

~~~~~

god is just a patient creature that swallowed a lonely. did you love him? as an infant blowing kisses to a bruise. a mother born to look seen.

~~~~~

as written
the word
why
looks a thing
forgiven
mid-bite, a chicken scratch
left
behind the ear
of a boy
by an angel
erring
on the side
of pink, a puzzle piece
blocking the airway
of a god
with a tail, a worm
suspended
in the grey
afterlife
of a swimmer
once the weigher
of nothing’s
limb

~~~~~

in their hermit’s longhand they write of sobriety the unreadable grief and then subconsciously outbid god on the hamster wheel from grasshopper’s dream

~~~~~

years from the event of my body, we pass in the grocery. I tell your children they are attached to nothing, that my arm cast is made of fingernails, that a bruise has a shadow, and that a mouth is where a mouth goes to die. truth has no attention span. it is not my favorite dream. partly this is so because I can remember how with a grey marker I drew on my belly the easier fruits might the identified heal the recognized. (but the kids are ugly and seem to know

~~~~~

one thing leads to another and they call this the past. I don’t sleep because I don’t love god. son I am a barber in the body of a dentist. son loneliness is just a museum of recent prayer. there are crows I haven’t seen.

that other crows have.

~~~~~

we were allowed to keep any item we could draw perfectly. mothers counted cigarettes and fathers died in threes. no one had a sister but all

her hidden talent. on the hand of god, the scissors I lost…

~~~~~

a genetic forgetfulness
in jumpers
of rope

all the turtles
have been touched

~~~~~

ache as a hairstyle. teeth that pray for frostbitten squirrels. a shadow, a circle, their secret

limp

~~~~~

with my body as a thing that existed from the waist-up, I became to swimming what I’d been to lightning and told my brothers that to dream they had to fall asleep before god touched his food. loneliness left its skinny tree and followed my mother into an outhouse where once her sister had counted smoke-rings and where twice they’d sung for their mouths the one about zero the forgotten letter. my father looked at me and I at my son. time waiting to create the sick.

~~~~~

it’s not a children’s book but does have chameleons looking for their dead. I wrote it might you remember that I’ll watch anything. my brother lifting weights while he says resurrection that lonely mouthful. horror movies to win back my abuser.

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