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November 25, 2020 / barton smock

AN OLD IDEA ONE HAD OF STARS (full collection, Feb 2020)

SO YOUNG IS LOSS

reading
to children
who miss
neglect

~

BONE NOTES

i.

sadness slips from the torn muscle of grief

ii.

insomniacs
here
are so
polite
and haircuts
are free

iii.

use cocoon
in a sentence

~

BRINK ACHE

we died
in that dream
but continued
to understand.

I thought
sleeping
skin-to-skin
with my children
would cure
your fear
of flossing. every bomb

touches god.

I forgot
to be in pain.

~

DRAWINGS

i.

a mosquito
on the thigh
of god

losing
its mind

ii.

an old
idea
one had
of stars

iii.

waiting with an uncle
for any
colorblind
doll

to pass
the salt

iv.

child in a hospital asking does time have enough food

v.

is snow
the mother
of distance

~

ORIGINAL ACHE

younger, I skin my knee in the museum of the dropped jaw. you say blue is a color and I say it’s a clock. god is there and is asking no one we know to leave space for a birthmark. we are somewhere between my grandmother dying and my grandmother dying. a noise outside could have come from this painting of three window-washers kissing the same egg or it could have come from outside.

~

BEGINNING ACHE

the crow’s fear of inclusion. eve’s perfectly forgotten ribs. the nothing I mean to my dentist. the cemetery where all the un-boyed went to eat paper. the band-aid in the belly of a baptized child. yawn of kites.

~

CREATED ACHE

the chicken
maybe found
the egg
then spent
its dog years
learning
in a light
that grew
back weird

~

THE CULT OF REPAIR

I dared once my brother to kill a single mouse he could fit into his mouth. he killed and killed. his jaw became so tight that he entered every dream angry and every chat room as me. the shadow of a beast we’d known to stand on two legs begged us to break its bones. we poured it a glass of milk then grew so close that I had to pour the milk alone. the beast tried to be our sister but our sister was a circle that moved away from the light. the mice that went with her

wanted to.

~

EXILE ACHE

I didn’t lose a tooth, says the child, there’s just one you can’t see. not a single horse has remembered to spy on the devil. that fish went right through me and I dream it back. mom never has a stick. the food in our stomachs dies at different speeds.

~

TRINITY ACHE

not a yesterday goes by I don’t pretend to know everyone. mom has eaten the snail. her father is still being shot.

~

GUIDE ACHE

if I could love them all, they wouldn’t be here. movies make her father angry. he asks her what is always trapped but never surrounded. her heart is an owl with a heart. mirror, she says, but doesn’t. a rain relearns the earth.

~

FAST ACHE

not every tooth makes it into the group of teeth I know about. a mother is told by god that her writing appears read. you eat like a bird then eat the bird for saying nothing. I warm a hand on a burning fish. our water seems distracted. by the ghost of what he’s killing.

~

HURRIED ACHE

after slamming my fingers in a car door, the hand looks for days as if god has tried to pry a nail from a piece of bread. people kiss me and I tell them my footprints can’t breathe. when a bug hits the windshield, my blood gets a star.

~

PLAIN ACHE

I write to missing things of knowing what took them. given the chance, what could god describe? I don’t know if what I hear is a sound or sound’s hostage, but it’s enough to make light remember losing a child and with it a boy and with him the fourth wolf he killed in his sleep. we don’t come from love, but we love.

~

CLOSING ACHE

you were born that you could be shown where you were left. wasp didn’t get that way trying to move a scar

but a spider can dream

~

ACT ACHE

as a telescope
skips
loneliness

please love
this octopus
embracing

the outsourced
beehive

~

CARRIED ACHE

I like to think of my grandmother as always on her way to an obstacle course for invisible children

(as combing her hair in a spiderless wind

~

LANDMARK ACHE

the skull of a child who can’t swim. whose friends

tried.

a horse for my puppet. a shadow’s first bone. the pill

in the egg in egg’s dream.

forgetful
lightning.

the deer dad resurrects.

~

KNOWN ACHE

I won’t keep you in suspense. I was born and then at a strip club crying for those tender people whose children put in private the final touches on god. also there is a meal being prepared that you won’t be able to finish before you die. the preparer of that meal has a least favorite creature and believes hundreds of corpses were dragged from eden by animals that were trying to experience joy. save it when you can

the last of the robot’s short grief

~

CORRECT ACHE

an angel leaves heaven to touch paper as a circle from my childhood rolls toward an empty jack-in-the-box. I am old enough to be sad and too old to separate deer facts from church facts. my children fall asleep before their hands fall asleep.

~

CLEAN ACHE

punched in our stomachs for remembering the sea, we are in a church that goes to church. it is here that a drop of god’s blood can change paper into plastic and here that bread is the bread and butter of hunger and hunger the oldest child in nothing’s choir. here that I count for a son who cannot count. for a son who sleeps on land on the lamb of his illness. (water is still the smallest toy and our mouths still come

from the same
noise

~

SALT ACHE

perhaps I am the thing that overtook me. that in its becoming was able to feel guilty about doing so. what if death is just looking for the one it’s named after. lonely I can almost see my eyes.

~

RABBIT ACHE

I can’t sit
for very long
without wanting
to smoke.

this is the flower
I pick
for my ghost.

~

REALM ACHE

I stand in a ruined field and preach longevity to a god that stares through me at the empty highchair of some freckled thing. my age is with me, there, and there to mean how far can I throw my food. if I close my eyes, I can see touch as a mirror that’s been used by my mother to describe sleep.

~

LIT ACHE

upon waking, my son knows he’s been moved. beside him I am crooked until he bites my arm. he is as heavy as the stomach of the angel that nightly kisses mine. illness has the patience of a shadow but cannot teach my eyes to kneel. time is god’s tenure as the lost tooth of sleep.

~

YEARS ACHE

my children haven’t gone a day without their stomachs. sometimes I lift my shirt and I think they mind. I want to tell them but won’t about the party we can’t throw for a dog whistle. fish are still building the sea.

~

ELDER ACHE

show me
the fireflies
of yours
that get
sad
around human
stomachs

(there is
a table

rain
will set

~

WITH ACHE

a lonely child makes no fist and snow arrives to draw a snake. I mean to chew but forget. your knock-knock jokes have gotten better. I don’t hate your stories. the head-kisser’s

bowling
score.

tornado that lost our emptiness.

~

CLAW ACHE

the soft spot
god has
for the nest
of a fasting
bird.

the stone my brother
saw
give birth.

aspirin
that will put

plastic
in your stomach. crucifix,

or the kitten
unseen
by swan.

a clump of hair in the newborn’s hand.

~

DRIFT ACHE

creation
gives guilt
an afterlife

the neighbors
found dead, we learn
to miss

the dog afraid of everything

(sleep is a movie a mom was in

~

GOODBYES FOR EXODUS

i.

there is a girl on our street who for a dime will eat any insect that doesn’t die on its way to her mouth. her dad watches and talks to us about god and how lonely it must’ve been to not know for so long which language to learn. if there is food in my house, it’s gone. hunger is proof that I’ve struck only those people who’ve entered my dream oblivious that they’ve come back for more. the girl tells me that if I don’t close my eyes

her ghost will think they are seeds

ii.

the night my father loses his teeth
he holds my hand
and confesses
that he once
punched his sister
for eating
snow

iii.

before the film starts, a woman tries to sell us on mouthwash for newborns. my friends say she looks like my mother and then realize that their love for my mother makes them sad. I tell myself that when I get home I will block the dog door with the small television that lightning took.

iv.

(our best bowler is a man who doesn’t shave because he thinks there’s a parrot on his shoulder)

v.

brother sits in a rocking chair and goes through the motions of pretending to be electrocuted. I am tired but not so tired that I can’t shut off the chair. our animals continue

to not
pray.

~

YET ACHE

what is not
there

in that late place
orphaned
by arrival

where a god
names
whose dying
it surprised

(is the last thing
he’ll touch
on purpose

~

HERMETIC ACHE

the one about loneliness. about the quarter, the cigarette, and the egg. about the odds of three hungers having an ear-shaped dream. about the dog-haunted car of my youth and how to cool the body with bread. about pulling over for the ambulance we’re in. about the number of rocks a stone counts in the hawk-like after-weight of a baptized child. the one about losing track of what I’m eating before I eat and the language god hears in both. the two about god

cutting god in half.

~

SIGNAL ACHE

the only things that grow here are creatures that don’t mind being eaten. my mother has given me two hands with the same name. if the second eye we open remembers having nothing, then our sleep has reached god.

~

[Burnings]

Nearness

we share
an invisible
drop of rain

but not
a wrist

(the grass
looks a little
lost

Farness

seeing
a frog
makes frog
an orphan

have I
the poem
we wrote

Pill

but mom
even sleep
dissolves

Tattoo

the spider in my left eye
is also
on the kitchen
floor
of a house

that’s gone

Lifelike

fog has a better
memory
than rain

Grief

yes there is one
footstep

left

Rain

and the pulse
to god
a scar

Frogsong

depression
decorates
a bird

Miscarry

perhaps a deer
had stepped
on my wrist

Osmosis

the son takes with him a knife into the bathroom and

Church

entering the body after a stroke

Sex

two
as if they fear
a third

Angels

mystique
that surrounds
a small town
search party

Chthonic

a prayer asking god to brush your teeth

Hunger

my first
backpack

Fraction

sadness
over something
deleted

Intro

writing is where one goes
to write, it is

(outside of water
not being
blue)

the bluest
place

Cigarette burn

the shadow
in my arm

Mirror

the shadow in my arm

(is of
a piece
of glass

~

COUNTER ACHE

my son trades a mirror for a shadow stuck in the ice and horses won’t eat the trampled birds of my hands. we dream and dream but cannot fog the whale’s eye. it’s a small life. perhaps something will land on the angel’s neck. birth helps god move the body.

~

AVAILABLE ACHE

what we don’t do is tape a dead frog to the chest of a doll and call frog an airbag. what else we don’t is laugh at the woman who with a skateboard and a pool stick retraces the river that took her dog. what we will is look for an ashtray as a ghost might for locust.

~

NO ACHE

what we’re seeing hasn’t reached us yet. what is it a sister says? a god dies when its coffin is empty?

~

STEM ACHE

in your ear is a spider afraid of the way I swim.

I remain made of

nothing
the winningest
prophet

~

CESSATION ACHE

A little
off the ears
my crucified
barber-

The more I sleep, the more there is
of the future.

~

Afternotes

of her son’s feeding tube, she says the shadow in her stomach has pulled off its ears

distance is the god of those who don’t need rest

would any one of you cut the baby

into thirds
to make

me a mother?

is that circle dead?

~

Afternotes

about the baby,

has it forgotten how to smoke

mom she rolled ache into our socks at a gas station

there’s no one to tell

my eyes

I’m early

to the quiet of egg sac

anthill

are ankles
lost

~

Afternotes

and here I tell my son, who’s never heard a cricket, how long I believed in god.

~

Afternotes

a circus worker
smokes
as one
who dreams
of being brainwashed
in Eden

the details
need some space

every bee sting
has a ghost

~

Afternotes

wash oh please
my forehead
with a mother’s
handprint, be

as sweet
as my brothers
fawning
over the belly
of the lover
who’s by now
removed
their matching
imaginary
tattoos, score

the earlobe
of a nail-biting
infant,

die.

the angel in the mirror
is not alone
all the time

~

Afternotes

you die
in this poem
so often
by my
unwrapped
hand
that god
promises
to salt
them less
the tornadoes

~

WEAPONRIES

i.

he shot three of us in the stomach for throwing a snowball at his pick-up truck. none of us died completely. by none I mean a priest and a pilot are changing the diaper of an indifferent baby. by scar we mean we held sticks and surrounded the paw

that our god had filled with fog

ii.

it takes we guess three low-flying helicopters and a herd of wheelchairs to scare jesus away from eating the bomb that we made

for men
only dogs
can hear

iii.

by stomach I mean both field
and church
are empty
and that whole
meals

reappear in the newborn’s outstanding loneliness

~

STOP ACHE

patient me above a footprint with my spoon and my fork and then old jawing at nothing us as food misses our mouths in the after of an almost deer and then for a very long time an emptiness a kneeling a here and there balloon and now it’s just this falling asleep on trains that are also asleep that are manned by ghosters of the misgendered who misgender you me what knows what their sleep is sleeping with and I guess it’s possible to be alone if possibility goes years maybe without experimenting on nostalgia and now it comes to you how it didn’t seem to me to be a turtle until we saw it eaten by a shark and then I needed a name to give to its friends its turtle friends all dead in a kind of before

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