Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Man in the Field Is a Pop-up Book

With his blood-painted nose so rosy,
with his clown’s smile stapled high on his cheeks. 
Who is daubing that dandelion rouge

around his mouth, or tending the stain
in those ashtray eyes? Does this sit-up-from-the-grave
showman dip himself into my wife,

paint his nose red by wiggling it
in the memory of her blood? He pops up
through the field like W.C. Fields

with the bleeding sycamores and maples
around him—those finger puppets he’s been wiggling
from underground all these years.


An air conditioner pokes its nose
out the bedroom window of the house
my wife and I lived in. It’s whistling in there

when I trespass with my compound bow.
I’m flinging arrows at the leafy air to pinpoint
my wife’s ghosts in the yard.

She bleeds a biker mama’s rose tattoo,
lavender blossom and bobby socks and ink.
I toss her old blouses over the apparitions,

follow her into a rainbow-colored bookstore,
Pooh’s Corner, may I help you. I chase her to the top
of the stands at our son’s football games.

Her arms fill to full blossom with wind.
See how the man in the field presses his lips to the air
hoping to taste the warm steam of her

breath on his throat. He has a dead alligator
under his tongue and it’s stuffed
with miniature children’s books.


There’s the grey sky and there’s the night
with its upside-down bowl of glass bits 
God sewed into his own skin.

Who will know us? We tear through the flesh
trying to find a love who is tearing
through the flesh to reach us too.

Then we rest with a smoking cannon
pinched between our fingers. I’d walk a mile for a Camel.
Dad, even a bonfire like you got snuffed out.

Tonight I’m blowing on your bones
to sort the embers from the ash, and I’m rubbing the ash
around the roof of my mouth

to flavor this song. Only a woman at the library
lifts into the sunlight a witch on a broom
and the sunlight butters her to such a loveliness,

I sink for want of fire soft and wine stain
beneath the covers, when one body folds
into the other so even the lovers’

subatomic particles meld and pool.
They fill the holy sleeping bear
under the snow with the warmth he wants.


All you need for a poem about longing and loss
is a clown sitting up in a field, and a dead father, a dead wife,
and maybe a few stars to daub on their lips.

All you need is an arrow split through two sides
of your cheeks so an indigo bunting can perch on one side
and an ashen sparrow can light on the other.

Only let’s suppose the sparrow’s an acrobatic Wallenda:
other birds pile on top of her shoulders so they form
a ladder of birds wavering in the heavens.

Let’s suppose that the indigo bunting
balances the Wallendas out perfectly.
So all you need for a poem is an arrow

shot through your mouth and a Jack Russell terrier
resting on your wife’s dirt lap. Sometimes he springs up through her
dust into the sky, then vanishes underground again.

He pauses on high to lick the atmosphere
the same way he lapped at the blood on your father’s leg.
Then he’s down there yelping in the earth again.

All you need for a poem is a wife
with a cue-ball head
and a scarf noosed around her neck.

She takes her turn resting on one side of the arrow
shot through your mouth, and she’s kicking
her legs at all that blue air.

The clown joins her on the other side
of the arrow with his smile stapled back, and he’s laughing
and kicking his legs into all that blue.


The man in the field is a pop-up book for now.
His bed is a tongue of grass. I am who.
I will press my finger into the bowl

of the man’s body and daub some of his dusty fire
over my love’s eyelids. I’ll go door to door with the sunrise
and the sleepers will idle out in their pajamas.

They’ll tilt back their chins
and I’ll lay this host on their tongues,
one poem, one sunrise at a time.  

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