This was when the kids graffitied their names
along the soft walls of the torched firetruck.
When red became only a thing for memory.
Summer when we fell down in fields
of jalapenos, breathing so deeply
we could feel the seeds fill in our mouths.
We did not speak of the endless legs
still twitching in their webs, separated
from thorax by our own hands, like us,
desperately trying to hold onto that
which we no longer had. This was us
tossing rocks at sleeping hawks
just to watch them slowly fall like hearts
carved out by a lover who said enough
is never enough. We could not explain
how much we didn’t know this would last
past a season. How we formed oceans
in the dust with our sweat, pricking
our skin open to let the blood connect,
swearing to the earth we would be here
forever. We lied to everyone
and ourselves. We became paper
cranes that girls folded into their jeans
then later lit on fire, the weather
of our names on the inside like flowers
that never bloom. We could not explain how
when we died we became other people.
A dying woman wraps cashmere around a dog who will never grow back its missing leg and in this way I want to open my chest to the morning. To brush blood orange nail polish along the toes of my sleeping wife, breathe in the alchemy on her mythic skin. The cairn along the abandoned railroad track leads to the sky and now I know moon more as direction than distance. Last night in Portland the street man shaved half a lung to tell us you’re a fucking liar. I knew he meant me. His hair a flag I’ve never had to wave, his skin a music masked as massacre. If god then god save. If not then more free beer and autumn for all. The parking lot trees are on quiet fire and this must be enough reason to buy a banjo for someone I’ve never met. Is it so sick to knife my once-friend’s name on the bar stall wall and carve an arrowed heart from the lone vowel? She doesn’t remember she told me he was rough in bed – not so much a wooden horse but the memory of your father’s voice before the bedroom door closes toward divorce. What makes me want to hold dead batteries in my hand I cannot say. Still I toss their weight high into the afternoon. Ask the sun to give back only what it can’t. My head a pillow for electricity. A slant of ducks driving the air, diving for some pond to call home, though nothing is ever exactly what we want it to be.
Philip Schaefer is the author of three chapbooks. [Hideous] Miraculous is available from BOAAT Press, while Radio Silence (forthcoming 2016 fromBlack Lawrence Press) and Smokes Tones (available from Phantom Books) were co-written with poet Jeff Whitney. Individual work is out or due out in Thrush, Guernica, The Cincinnati Review, Forklift Ohio, DIAGRAM, Sonora Review, H_NGM_N, Adroit, Vinyl and Hayden’s Ferry among others. He tends bar at a craft distillery in Missoula, where he received his MFA from the University of Montana.