Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2020  Vol. 19 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Silence

While the others sleep
you listen to the inscrutable
run-on sentence of a creek
slowing in dead leaves
until the sound
of the air and distance
is a bell rung once
behind the teeth of a coyote.
A sound like a field destroyed
by fire, a church collection plate
just after a widow
throws in a wad of cash
making a nest for belief.
The sound
of water bleeds
behind your ears
and the gray sky
until there’s nothing left to listen to.
In truth, you stopped listening
a long time ago, and only
remembered for a moment
a few words
darkening the silence
of an earlier time
where the small-town kids have nothing
to do on a Thursday night
and so, sit in an Airstream passing
around a spoon
and a little crystal.
It was the night Kenny
would kill himself
and I remember the smoke
knitting into the spit-shine
of his eyes. A plastic shower curtain
cracking in the doorframe between
that room and another
where a baby was crying.
Who’s to say
anyone can ever leave a room like that?
Are they still there with bad teeth,
the skin giving up
around cheekbones and cracked lips,
the taste of sour milk on their breath?
The creek keeps
running in front of me
so certain in its endlessness.
The water spills on, and I see
my friend at his desk
writing fuck, fuck, fuck
on the smooth surface
and afterward spitting into his hands
and using his entire palm
to wipe the graphite away. Later
when he was alone in his room
he stayed up while everyone slept
and loaded his rifle
which he couldn’t get out of his mind,
the silence in the barrel.


Me and the soul sweeping dirt
from the kitchen floor. The soul
is a question the broom straw makes.
The soul never asked me anything, but
you can scrape some off the rusted truck.
I’m too tired to sleep, so I just keep
sweeping so the clear floor can banish
the snow from the sky. Last fall
we were together in the room where each
voice burned in a shred of tinfoil. The soul
just sat there and said nothing—young
boy at his desk with his eyes open.  

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