Turns out the fire got it all. Not much insurance. Not enough
to start over. Howard’s workshop gone, the crowded
bench, scattered with wrenches, mismatched parts.
His son-in-law comes, helps him sort through the mess,
set aside what might still be of use. In the end
Howard knocks it down to keep trespassers out. In the spring
he’ll set it on fire again, then bury what’s left. Now
half the roof sprawls wide, an upside down V,
with shingles crooked and missing. A metal desk
with its one drawer closed, squats on its top.
Peeking out from underneath—the white door
that never hung straight, always caught as you tried
to enter. All of it like some giant broken nest, taunting me,
a dark scar on the snow. Scraps entangled with the bare arms
of bushes. Gossip has it that faulty wiring caused the blaze,
some jury-rigged circuitry. Howard was known for that,
piecing together odds and ends, making do—sloppy but functional.
Now nothing will replace it. He’s taken to standing in the roadway
looking at the charred planks. At eighty-five he remembers when
it was a working mill. The stringent smell of sawdust, the whir of the blades,
like a coat he once wore. Tattered now. Nothing that will keep him warm.
I sit in the forbidden room a chair by your bed holding my weight in stones, in sorrows in uncountable grains of touch you can still speak so I lean over to catch your voice in my mouth to swallow these bits warm in beak and you tell me I was always the quiet one and you don’t know about all the words layered in me like rotting leaves so many things I have said inside the cavern of my chest full of nervous screeching bats flitting around while things I don’t say pile up light cuts across your blankets and I am afraid to touch you because you are a pillar of pain and this is the bad thing this is the moment I remember and write over and over and over always that light and my own body screaming from every rivet I promise now to go over the years to scratch the earth of your love for me to erect those landscapes eclipses rays shimmering like milk in sky —so I say— but this poem goes down the same mournful path and out the window blackbirds have come to eat what I have scattered on blurred and foggy ground
*from “Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient)”
by Kaveh Akbar
Crab Creek Review
2018 Vol. 2
when your shoulder becomes the arms
of a willow, branches hiding grass shadows
when your collar becomes a cloud, a conundrum,
a cauldron that clenches below your face
when you keep sadness below folded hands
like an insect you do not wish to escape
when secrets from your past rise like water
lapping, lapping at your waist
when shoe buckles turn to stones,
when you stand in a murky world
you won’t find the truth sitting in a chair
peering at you from beneath wicker legs
he’ll be waiting for you there in an alley, he’ll be
grinning from behind a desk, he’ll laugh at you
in the locker room where you won’t hear, he’ll
put his hand on your thigh, your knee, your neck
he’ll slide like a fish between your legs
when you are least expecting it
It began innocently, the way most things do—
the seed planted in good ground, the ovum
splitting again and again, the first cigarette
held to your lips between three fingers
in the fluorescent light of the bathroom stall—
when you reached too far to pull the last weed
from beneath the narcissus, their heads
already dead and gone. Somehow the tilt of body
wrong, you plummeted to the brick walk.
After, you limped into the house, surveyed
the leg, which in days ahead turned purple,
blue. The cost of growing old, you thought.
An inconvenience. Nothing that stopped you
from cooking dinner, making the bed, speaking
to your daughter on the phone. And Thursday,
the day you always went into town for groceries,
laundry, a visit to the local bookstore—you did
that too. Even went out for an evening of music,
as your lower leg swelled and hurt
more than it should. How could you know
that your very bones had betrayed you—
the orderly birth of white and red cells turned
into pandemonium, a blossoming of random
blasts, good for nothing except chaos—invisible
cancer growing? No lumps on your breasts
when you raised your arm and felt around,
no bleeding or black lungs. Only a bit of tiredness,
a new drag to your step that could have been age,
that could have been anything—a virus, a slight
cold, the humid air weighing you down.
We swept into the new year—danced the blitz—
then staggered home to the hills of Los Altos, not as high
as we’d like to have been, the lost days falling from our arms.
Four of us crowded into the cabin, slept on floors,
all black and white and gravelly gray. Remember the way
you kissed me then, as if the world didn’t mean anything
and yesterday was just a song on the hit parade?
I bawled and bustled, wrote poems, heard the Grateful Dead
singing a storm, watched someone stir pots of soup in the park.
You sold the Saab, thyme spread like crazy in our garden,
and all we talked about was getting back east. I saw
December 31st riding on your shoulder. A ragged shadow
did a flash-boom dance across the backyard. I couldn’t
shake free, found myself sheathed in months and Mondays,
sealed up in numbers. We dropped acid, counted out
our food stamps for the next day’s meal, rode north
to harvest redwood driftwood from the beach in hopes
of selling it on city corners, the exhaustion of the day before
like a tattered shirt on our backs, the smell of humanity
rising, cars parked one behind the other, buildings
black as melted tar, but the road a shining path.
Those days all scattered now. A whirlwind of years
plucked and thrown along the street. Eventually we made it
back east, split, took up ordinary lives, turned pages,
looked at books, lost years, papered in feathery days.
Sometimes we hid under the beds when he got like that,
his anger raining down over the floorboards, hard kernels
of hail, a storm that pushed through him every time he drank.
We knew nothing about the island then, how he lived on a boat,
pulled from his dying mother’s arms, his bitterness reflected
in blank spaces between buildings. I kept thinking he’d get better,
instead he beat on us like the sea, as if we were rocks, the storm
sinking all our ships. Him just whaling, whaling, and us never knowing
why—our mother caught in the upstream current, bruised about
mouth, nose, ribs aching from the momentum of his blows.
We grabbed at the bedposts, hoisted ourselves out the back windows,
all the time no help for our hating him, no way to understand
what the world had done to him, our pain like crows’ shadows
slipping across the shuddering back of the world.
Issue 25 Summer 2017
I live by the stream, by the old dam tumbled into a fit of rocks.
Through the path we made, past Royal and Long Beech fern,
small huddles of baby oaks, sting of raspberry, a clutch of young pines,
I step onto the mown lawn, jumble of grass and weeds,
dandelion blades, fuzzy camomile, a scatter of gravel spilled by workers
building the garden wall, rocks as hard put as memory and more lasting.
I live in a house built from ground that Charlie cleared, just beside
the knot of spruce, needles falling, a constant rain of thin slices of life
that hide themselves in the grooves of my car, grow into clumps
around the motor like small nests. I live on Oak Hill Road, though the oaks
have grown thin and too many hills rise up to tell which is the one named.
On weekends the train whistle blows, up at City Point, where the tracks
cross the road and the walking path comes out after following the river from town.
I see the stain the tide makes on the edge, a ceaseless coming and going—
dog walkers, joggers, bicyclists jamming along the old rail bed.
In winter I stare at the frozen waterfall, bare branches, footprints
caught hard in solid snow. I live in a world of snow, a place of blizzards
and white-coated nests, of lines cut parallel through new snow, of white-outs,
and power-outages, of lanterns, wood stoves and the thumping of generators
in the shed outside. I watch the ospreys circle the stream, the eagle dive,
the fish hang caught in beak, see the carcass of porcupine smashed on the shoulder,
blood smeared in tire tracks. At night cars slide by on the way to town,
to Belfast Variety, to beer, to milk, to wine, to the parking lot
on the corner of Bridge and Pierce Streets where the young
gather, laughter a blanket of waves, an ocean, bandying curses and cuts,
tender limbs, cooled in the breeze, kisses touched on love-struck necks.
Naugatuck River Review
Issue 19 Winter/Spring 2018
Books form cliffs. We fall
into wanton characters’ arms.
Nothing holds us. Just whispers. Whims.
Each page turn, turns us into someone
dissolute. The author tells us we carry
a nest of laundry. We finger undone buttons.
I found the unexpected villain at the end.
A valley with trees tumbling down the sides. A gate
ruined. A gauntlet of afternoon light, a woolly ruff of heat,
stone-faced cats and rusty bikes.
When he came to me, I followed him, through
murmuring air, the wet suck of summer.
Now I wish for turbulence—disturbing,
evocative. It rattles in the gravel
a broken tube of nickels.
Asheville Poetry Journal
No matter what swells
over the seawalls
of your love and buries you,
the plumbing still crumbles,
the car still runs dry.
At night I chew bits
of skin from my feet,
catch mice with cracker
crumbs in the sink.
We still watch
the moonrise together,
an atomic tangerine.
Looters roam the streets.
We sit with shotguns
across our knees.
Cradle them like babies.
Asheville Poetry Journal
All fall you wait for the eggs
to hatch, for the sight of a small carapace
scraping free. She laid them far from water
in a hole beside our drive. Now when water
from rain carves ruts, you think about eggs
in October earth. How little a carapace
can protect. How bones lie bare beneath,
thin and white as fools. How far from water
we all are, huddled in our tight eggs.
Vol. 39 Fall 2018