I remember sweat, three pennies pressed wide
by the twin track of the train
barely a cinder’s heat in my pocket; shirt slicked
to my back like the last bit of flesh on a picked-clean bone.
Long and hard I’ve worked to forget those weeks
school bell’s toll and summer slipped its closed sign
like a red burn across the horizon.
why address that August
Leo and the Virgin set such slow pace across the hemisphere
and the Stanley brothers organized
the neighborhood’s ten-speeds
hallooing like Pawnee over the crests of every back-alley I knew,
hungry for my dirty-blond scalp?
Why tunnel back along the grooved slates of memory,
well over a decade since
I crouched siphoning nectar
from the orange clappers of the honeysuckle patch,
starved and too scared to follow
my own trail back
along the runged straightaway of the rail
and down the trestle’s nearly unclimable slope—
not yet gone under, moon still waiting
its lukewarm light long across the road?
It’s no great leap into the folds of the wings of the crows,
to perch with them on the power lines, red eyes open,
and all the time myself within that
just having discovered the abandoned repair yard,
in the crow-trussed cable wires.
Is it the gadfly born with a thousand black blind eyes?
The goldfish that lives without a single memory?
The pit viper that strikes without ever having heard a sound?
Make me one.
For if anything’s worth recalling, I’d not have thought
of this plain of shimmering glass shatterings
beneath in the sun;
the power lines converging and diverging overhead
like a cat’s cradle twined between
Long and hard I’ve worked to forget this,
the folds of the hops blossom
for the dander of forgetfulness; tossed
husked-out volume of a body
to the fruit bats pinging out a flight from darkness.
But no roots have sprouted
from the cold stone floors.
No sweet herb of amnesia has curled up from the guano.
No cornflower blue blossom in the deep.
Make me a goldfish, and I’ll leap out of water.
Make me a viper, and I’ll
strike at my own wings.
For it is here, under this near-full sphere
gray as a bingo ball, that I wiled my
busted-up Budweiser bottles and crushed cans
of Milwaukee’s Bests for globules of slag,
that intimate byproduct
of butane’s blue cone left long ago by the spot welders
to cool into the egg-shaped stones I gathered
and, reaching back, heaved into the sky,
like the men who strapped themselves to Apollo
and rocketed beyond gravity’s grasp,
I too could shuttle
past the caws of the crows;
leave my booted foot’s impression on the surface of the moon.
Then the moon seemed so close—
pinned to the earth like angels to the dead—
moon like a sand
dollar revolving about its axis,
that every half-turn it winks out,
only the dark slit of a serpent’s eye closed over us.
the pickerel reed that snaps in the first cool breath of Autumn?
Is it the seven-year cicada that discards its husk on
For what else is there for me here? Other
than the rust-rimed railings left out to their half-lives,
destinations fading along the sterns and starboards
of de-wheeled hopper cars, the crows
messages back and forth between them,
my cackling overseers?
Make me a piece
of the sky, and I will darken.
Make me a crow, and as darkness falls,
myself a piece of it.
How else forget these first notions of self-loathing, that no matter
how hard I tried
send something into orbit, those lumps of molten iron pitched,
then splashed back down to earth
thumped-up instances of light?
How else forget the path that
brought me there or how
looking back along that wide curve in the rail
I wished for the galloping forth of the Minotaur,
and instead it was the Tennessee-Southern,
barreling forth the coal economy;
as I crouched just inches
from the flashing-past boxcars,
envisioning the day I’d take off at a sprint
and hurl myself into another