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On Learning a Poet I Admire Often Carries a Pocket Knife.

And four more poems.


On Learning a Poet I Admire Often Carries a Pocket Knife

I wasn’t allowed to
possess a friend’s remains
until they took the form of ashes. I poured
Ryan Uellendahl into a cup of tea.
Remember the years we didn’t learn
French, taunting “you’re not
punk and I’m telling
everyone,” the grainy texture
of eating gardenias. I own one
pocket knife to open packages,
to marionette at gender. It sits
haunted on the water
heater in symmetry
with cricket legs. I linger
outside, struck homely by a river,
elastic waves stretching,
collapsing. There is shame
elsewhere. My essential
tremor. The uncle
John, who tattooed a red
dot on the side of his right
middle finger, now
collects shells, now
fills my pockets when his overflow.

Their Shrill Names

My anonymous friends
wake lush with rats. Give us
10,000 index cards,
we’ll build an ossuary
for everyone we meet. A ritual
shakes hands with a proverb.
“Resist death by water,” the rest
left to the imagination. By fire
too. We find ourselves
placing tulips in thin
plastic necks. My favorite
alphabet? The years I’d stare at
paintings of men playing
violence. I push
holes in my arm to be
puppeted by feeling. I watch
goldfish bruise and make
childhood. Oh meager
imaginary numbers. Call us
diffuse weather. We are not fans
of memoir or memory. Name them
gauze, shaking. The cat
interrupts slick with a fresh
scent of bleach. Humor us.
To be the tooth, crack, or tongue
worrying? It makes sense
with enough red string.

Tap Water

Blank affect, bland
name for they took the house,
plastics inside the house,

utensils, appliances. Last year’s
family ruined by slush
along the Pascagoula River. Bodies

named pest. We make our own
weighted blanket from clay,
slack burlap. Let’s begin

again. An idea of exchange
grown inward
like a nail. A cup of tongue

before the sun shows its face
under acetaminophen sky. We skid
into others like we want to die and hold

no legal obligation to tell
the truth. Poor excuse for anything
social. Asymmetrical hands

offend a god of watching
fleshy incompetence. Illness
unspools like a hose. There are

things, some might name them
animal, with an interest in not being
eaten. We are not among them. No

time for questions. A city
rises over buprenorphine
itself over turnip

bone. The day feels
apricot and paperboy.
What if the horns don’t come in.

Of the Everyday

Rain cobwebs morning.
Living’s glossy verbs: whole

milk, pull sock, cat litter, jog
in place. The refrigerator

speaks. Twitch nail from finger.
Geraniums turn. My stomach

questions. Can’t answer a state bird,
explain a pumpkin-headed month

unfolding. Describe how
cocaine smoke tastes: waffle cone

with dirt, cackle of ash on aluminum.
Bathroom my family’s motto. We grow

spoiled prayer, blackened tooth
scripture. Burst like fat

mold. A winter, a train. Between
stops I make a rash

of the body. I play
at canvas. Speech acts

discursive before abrupt.
Iodine such a pretty word.

Fingers Move

toward an electronics of “the way out
is to think of [ ] as agency of the virtual
with specter understood not as anything
supernatural but as that which acts

without physically existing.” Cross post
Ipomoea alba with incorrect
caption at reunion
flower or otherwise. Pixels show
our smile past
comfort. No direction except
north in every sense of. No direction
except take a picture it will. Compress

file, unzip skin,
loosen as discussed
while slumming
with mirror. Stretch through
light, blue and soft, softer, a weather
in its own. Season of the not yet
invented. Verb the minutes

before leper
of socket, other
rhizome “preoccupied, sound of
technology breaking down, use of crackle,
surface noise made, we are listening to a time
out of joint, it won’t allow us to fall into
presence.” Oh root, oh rot, we petition

continuous point mapping, don’t
name it graph, equation of
solitude. Movement in
peach, circled
words won’t contort
our tongue. Believe in entomology
an insect of moments
yielding to some new ghost.

—quoted passages remixed from Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of My Life

DAVID GREENSPAN is the author of One Person Holds So Much Silence (Driftwood Press) and the chapbook Nervous System with Dramamine (The Offending Adam). He’s a PhD candidate at the University of Southern Mississippi. Recent poems appear in places like Bellevue Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Fence, Narrative, and Salamander Magazine. Find him online here.

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