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May 17, 2019 / barton smock

{ infant & shuteye, 2016 }


god save mantra. the baby. the unicorn tantrum. god save the ventriloquist. the museum of shrinking things. the things themselves. the angel working the knots from an extension cord. the exodus followed by the exodus of my father’s turtles. god save the condom. the flag of the scrotum. the handcuffed mother of sleepwalking illegals.


lordy that’s a lot of people

observes the refugee. what the dream tells us about the headache is worth repeating.


I cross my legs in the soul’s bathroom and suck on the business end of a squirtgun. if I jerk enough, I can make the newspapered floor into a headline that reads season slows for Ohio toddlers. I can’t remember the last time a toddler ran past me or, for that matter, the last time a toddler ran. god save the translucent. the abused are never more alone than when their abusers get help.


my child. my diver who wets the bed. my worrier who rescues domestic scenes for animals accused of gaslighting. my swimmer. bather of grasshoppers. my lovely bird alone in an airplane.


two things to do on an empty stomach are:

hold a séance.

follow the spider’s trail of abandoned birthmarks.


in the video, the young woman is being force-fed cake by a man with a ruined tongue. my mother can’t eat and watch at the same time. your mother is holding me and wondering what happened to this thing. our fathers are veering into the realm of film criticism. where you are depends wholly on my sister’s makeup. god’s parents have no concept of time.


what was pain? was pain the spoiled dog of the blackmailed priest? was pain the story of the bear that triggered my father’s insomnia? before it began to go everywhere without him, was pain god? was it holding the note so long the cured forgot they’d been? or maybe it was entering the high corn disguised as my brother mid-seizure? was pain a rival church? as we ask, is death being made to account for its own disappearance?


I am on vacation and this dead body is kind of amazing. you remain my sweetest brother. brother, god is only the end of the dream. I dream the ocean is a doll that comes to my knees. suicide has a room all to itself. can narrate what I’m saying.


I smoke because I can no longer tape record my anxiety.


it became outgoing. buried fish by the bucket in the backyard. brushed my teeth while calling my mouth the secret of the washrag. boated darkness from stone to stone. chose to love. loved duration.


inside my father I can’t hear one tv over another. I have a body fit for radio. I picture my mother as a woman who can eat without moving her mouth. the people watching the fight want to be seen looking at it. I’m not the only one pretending to cheer. my first word was said to my first dog. that dog told dogs to give a fuck.


she is pregnant and he is not. at the same age of the boy before me, I am given by sister a blindfold to place on any woman looks like my mother. there are so many. I tell myself it’s my body and my body where every bone believes that god lost his eyesight to a vision man had of a moth bumping into a crow.


nightmare: her father prepares the pull-out bed to show her Jesus is gone.

I know you from Adam.


one of us is dreaming I’ve entered your body. brain injury or no, I feel I can do whatever the devil can do to the scream that wakes him. who was it found me with god’s help? I have some names. all middle.


one could create food with a mouth like that. one has no stomach for violence. one swallows like a gunman whose right hand knows you’re missing the back of your head. one is a chewing machine. one is quick to cook for the tortured. spoonfed, one is hunger. artifact of the longest meal.


your human life distracts god from the animal’s plot to kill him. those tagged as dog meat can eat their weight in nostalgia. in the end, your mother will confess that the absence she felt was an oversight. as for the world I took you from, you’re all it can think about.


insomnia sends to the attic the dog-walking angel. the dream’s cripple breaks its own thumb for losing a child’s nose. some melancholy kid explains to my son how there’s a fly in the body being sad about bones. my son nods his head as if sounding out the severity of his mother’s double vision. disability, like belief, has the patience of god’s ghost. has the time gone from nothing’s noise? god save the book of now. I don’t want to be seen as a person.


god does my mother’s work while father lands a night job as a yard sale cashier. my sister continues to believe her baby is a lightweight. my brother goes from motorcycle to breathing machine and back. dogs pace and cigarettes last. the postman’s darkness moves into a paper doll at which point he asks satan for an airplane. I was here when I got here.


satan worship expands to include birdwatching. the first thing a boy hears a father say is enough about me. such a boy finds his mother not only talking to a bird but telling it what to do.


she shakes the baby she thinks is fruit. she screams at my mother for covering my ears. at home, I am made to tell father the whole story which has somehow come to include a fork. it is not uncommon, he says, for an ugly person to hold a fork where others can see it. then: two things can light the cigarette in your brain, and one is masturbation. now: a good ghost story gets you into heaven.


grief. grief in that, beside any baby, I am the one person competing for my loneliness. grief in that my brother’s fasting secures a pair of scissors.

grief in that I glow in the light.


oh skeleton made in my image. oh you. oh you and your baby. cereal of ant bones. oh the hills of the uploaded hills. oh men men only. quoting the born. collected sorrows oh passing of the nest. church of the stalled car. oh as we attend.


sickness paints the house of my mother’s conceptual therapist. the devil urinates in public as part of a retrospective honoring the films my dead brother didn’t make. as a ghost, I am given to haunting the confessional. I hear little more than how my mouth is a magnet for baby talk. the beauty of the father isn’t pain. pain can create the present it predicts.


open with

in the numb habitat
it calls home
where an example
is made
of clone

if it learns to walk, it’ll never be the same.


the child asleep in the astronaut’s photographic memory. the child asleep in its father’s arms. the child asleep in worry. worry as an inquiry attended by the stairmaker’s angel. what do you resist? helplessness. as in arrest. as in christ.


if found unresponsive, know I am doing one thing well. if god was alone, why speak? torture is part of my country’s space program. ask any swimmer if the body ends in the body.


headaches that keep a mother from needing shoes.

not about
the piglet
but dissecting
the wrong.

of feeding
a snowball

to a scarecrow, of not feeding

the disabled.



poetry and god share the same quick death.

I’m on what you’re on;
the eighth day of the world.

it’s all in your head. the newborn we had on a mountaintop. the word it knew from memory. its hand that stuck to everything but the dog our dog ate. the cold our dog died from. the tent we called aquarium. that we filled with diapers. that was never full.

existence is the wrong inquiry.

I was destroyed by an angel

for having
taste buds.

/ a pinkness

went on
without me.

if touch is all it can manage

the hand is poor.

I am the new face

of baby

when lightning
has emptiness
to burn

the fasting

I am old and nothing brings me joy.

I did
good things
but I
was asked.

of a dog
I am likely
to remember
a library

my uncle
he is probably
west of me

to open
a bottle
with the mouth
of a living

and what
would forgiveness

my kids were never born. yours
they hide
from the number
of people

when dead, I was not
a bird
my mother
what kind.

I can’t tell
by looking
if he’s seen
the future
or seen
the future
again. I strip

when my stomach

it puts me on my stomach

this grief
you have
for the switched
at death

god’s color has returned

the male
in the grey



I want to say it is yes yes

egg, the island

clock, the genitalia

of alarm…

I want to say it is orange
like bees
not all

the hymns
not all


he says we are men
not because a raccoon
chased a bone
into the factory
of shadows.

he says it’s me
or the bag
of trash
and gives me
a knife.

he says before I was borned
we took
the same
bullet. he says mouth.

I kick
he says
in my sleep
and it puts
a belly button
on a bird

he says them animals
ain’t so wild
as a dog
in drag

and your mother
is the outside

the robot is a virgin.

the baby
it goes
from baby
to baby
with no

I want your work to matter.

subtitles, ghost
pollen / I sit

my father

he strokes
a large

eating behind the mirror’s back
it was all
hick lore
to me

a scratch
in scar’s
nakedness, a loss

of infancy
to the deaf
who dug up
the ears
of god
for nothing
than the sound
of depression

going blind
in the garden
of the hairdresser’s


my way
of saying
to god

had you lived
or enjoyed

when asked
I say
I see
on the floor
of a mudhut
a sex toy
a seizure.

I kiss the feet
you’re the future

for devouring
the mannequin
but for eating
the seeds, it was

(in a coloring
for cigarettes)


by a baby
a baby
could love

I go with dove to high

dives / I am on

the pill
the swimmer’s
pill / for nine

I’ve hidden
a rabbit
from no one’s


it was for healing the hand of the plain hand
that I
was touched / well blood

on a bread
massage me
a brainwashed
worm / well comb

all you want
the eyesight
of god / swallow

a hair
in the house

this once
a thing
in the sanctuary
of its double

hell is a book.
she reads it
in a room
that’s alive.

attic or no, I want
to miss
my father.


give it time
to recover

into something from his childhood
a man
is born. never

far off
what crawls
her way.

she reaches into the same hat for the rabbit he’s made disappear.

I sleep and the dark takes me for the bone


church of intermission. church of the rolled-away church my fever follows. church of it ain’t a baby until it spits. church of the lawnmower left running. of the space you give the grieving horse. church of you when you die in my sleep. of musical suicides. church of the disinfected high chair. of the false bruise. of how to become a balloon in the church of touch.

in the library’s dream, the abortion clinic is no bigger than a fingerprint.

this is me
for a photo
of my father’s
last meal.

to have
the allergic
my mother

for proof
of animal

a mirror for my toys. dirt for my brother.

and we touch to abridge doom in the bed of a headless man. and we struggle to hear a father verbatim. and we ask in a fierce wind a phone booth to please be a fireplace. and a starfish consoles a handprint.

/ I was spotted covering my eyes by a dentist whose childhood had stopped disappearing. how big is your family and who wears the mouth? is it true your dad sold to a city gargoyle a spray-can of piss? that your mom had no baby tired of being born? that their suicides filled a madhouse with cubist maids?

/ year nine: your birthday spider is put on film for biting. your sister takes one look at my brain and remembers what to feed and how to clean a cricket.

/ year eight:

my son doesn’t want the circle he’s drawing to touch the circle he’s drawing.

the dog
is a heartbroken

she checks her teeth in the door glass of the oven.

the egg is dropped
and the owl

did your caterpillar
a syringe?

I want to hide the clothes I’m wearing.

something touched
is something

the woman had the suicidal absence of a man who’d just broken to his body that his blood was not the rooster patience devoured. if I peeled a potato, I did so in egg’s hell.

praise headgear, worship eyewear.

adore nostalgia, forgive


say god
three times, then

say mirror.

this is what you mean, kiddo
what you mean
to a bomb

/ it doesn’t help god

that god
is awake

for what
does the torso

the cocoon is music
to the mannequin’s

she ain’t
been calm.

when grief
was password
and not

when gift
was horse

when baby
little baby
went all

(on who)

to remember

outside the dream, I had written the most heartbreakingly clear poem about brotherhood. inside

was this boy
was discovering
god’s thumb
is never
clean. a boy whose mouth

was never
here. all those I’ve met

I’ve left

asleep in the pickpocket’s bed, the baby is a mirage.

I’m so fat
I’m fat
in the dark. I compose

at my lowest
a crucifixion

from the basements
my father

putting the meat
back together
in an unfilled

we yawned
at the same
time / brief

the unmothered


as overcome as I was to be gifted a hospital gown, I had nothing on the angel whose brain / for visiting the eye / was banished…

we are the dead
we’re here
to return

by death I mean nothing was beautiful for a very long time.

that, and when did you know.

One Comment

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  1. barton smock / Jul 13 2020 1:52 pm

    Reblogged this on kingsoftrain and commented:

    well 2016

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