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Red Eyes



Joel FriederichListen

The American Boy Dreamt of Journeys

You swam through walls
as if they'd dissolved,
breathed in your pores.
Under fluid fields of stars
midnight was all depth,
the world a sunken bed—
any who needed air
lay paralyzed in the logic
of constellations.

You found hollows,
drowned places between
tamaracks’ bleeding roots,
in the acids of a bog’s throat.
Names decayed in the knots
of tubers, time’s reservoirs
rotted to reptilian stillness.

Once, you slipped through
a door in a dead-water hump
woven of finger bones
stained tannic black—
a dying animal’s breath
rustled in root-hair
and heavy fore claws clicked
against the spine of the earth.

All night while his children
gnawed the shins of alders,
plundered sticky muck,
hissed and slapped
at a gibbous moon’s fat rising,
you felt your way
into his drowned house,
inching further into his dream,
not afraid of waking
such blind, furious hunger.

In the North

In our thin shelter on the shore
we’re alert as animals—no, we are
animals, trying to rub off our skin
by making love for—who knows,
time’s stuck, minutes won’t
diminish into dark, nor light
relinquish its claim on flesh—
this near the longest day
sun is our blood’s obsession.

Nothing here can give
itself wholly to the pleasure
of lying down exhausted.
Though we’ve come so far
into northern barrens, we cannot
burrow down through each other
deep enough to drown in quiet
waters beyond our lust.

The pull back to shorelines
is relentless—we are painted
turtles, egg-heavy, heaving
up onto cool evening sands.
We are cracked open
by the burden of our need
and ooze richly red through
our backs’ broken mandalas,
but still we are always rising
to dig, to bury, to lay.

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