Quit teaching 20 years ago. Now entering my 50th year of trying to write and publish poems. Got my first book out age 44. Not exactly a prodigy. Am working on second New & Selected Poems. Where did all this stuff come from?
What do you need to get inside? Your grandfather’s
nickname, “King”? Your cut wrist when you were barely
eight years old—the name of the doctor who got out of bed
to stitch you up? You hit Enter, but get Access Denied again.
Start with the numbers you were born from. The war
of that time. The cost of unhomogenized milk. The bar where
your father found heroic words. The first three letters of your
wife’s first name. The year they removed your mother’s left
lung. The number of stars counted at your daughter’s birth.
The last letters of the last words your friend Jay spoke at his
death. Put them all in a plastic globe and shake it. Empty it
on the new leather couch. Close your eyes. Select seven.
How easy when you don’t know if anything you ever did matters.
Just enter those blind, fallen choices. You’ll have infinite, random
access. Someone will understand what you’re printing out. And why.
First published in Field
Where it leaves the periphery of vision, a slithering thread,
where it hides in the prostate, bulging, sealing the urethra,
where it invades lymph, parallels the blood, swollen,
hungry for iron, seeping like dye into hair, eating at the breast,
darkness like soot clinging to the voltage of nerves,
where it drifts from reactors, breaks loose from boron,
stealing the memory like lead, rising in morning mist
as from a shriveled swamp, the powdery lichen, where it roils
behind diesel rigs, particulate, settling into the pores of cheeks,
burning down from the sun, frothing in the colon, the scum
of cooking oil, where it bakes into round sweets, where it hums
in the furnace, twists free from polyethylene, burning the lips
like speech, its coiled syntax, its larvae in the flowers of cells,
mindless, iridescent as copper sulfate, acrid as dung.
First published in Hamilton Stone Review
©2016 John Allman
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