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John AllmanListen



Autumn in the biome. Our yard busy with grackles landing around the feeder, their iridescent hoods a stylish variation that clerics strive for, eyes bright, insane, their crawk a throat made raw with singing notes too high. They’re stabbing yellow zoysia grass, hopping mad, glaring at chipmunks who have scampered under the drooping leaves of hosta lilies. A cardinal in the umbra of dried hydrangea blossoms, his redness the tongue naked to the air, loosened from its proper place in the heat of the mouth. A wet fear words its way among chickadees, titmice and nuthatches, the speckled lone woodpecker clinging to the edge of the feeder. They rise in a black cloud, the grackles, they’re done, they break up like flak, bit by bit and all around they fill the dusk with thin lament, and squirrels rush for cover.


Spare Parts

They must be good for something, like Homer's ready-cut hexameters, his ox-eyes and winey tide. There were scabs on Achilles' knee that you never heard about, Hamlet's stutter, Ophelia's infected toe. What if when Emma Bovary died, her jaw slack, what oozed out was servitude, sash, succor? All the wrong words you'd ever hear at the post office in Rouen. And the poet thinking of the tyrant's cockroach mustache, what if he picked a flea from Natalia's pudendum and said, grifter, gasp, Garibaldi? Always somewhere a crunch of tank treads. Why not strato-cumulus? Ambling across the noir screen, a boulevardier suddenly modern: Bite me! Try child's rictus, a joy pineal, the foot that Karloff dragged in The Tower of London.


Spraying the Chickens

It wasn't necessary back when the hen kept her chicks close and they pecked at her fecal droppings and they swallowed just the right kind of mother love, a touch of illness, a taste of their own blood, and they trembled in sleep. Those days you could eat them without a care. Maybe even find a dark spot near the pimply shoulder, a piece of quill, the memory of a certain kind of flapping. The farmer's wife wiped her hands on her apron after she put the naked thing in the oven and she wiped the dirt off potatoes and she cut the bread, and you were so happy and hungry you wanted to kiss her hands that kept layer upon layer of so much world intact. And if something of that got into your mouth, it was proof against the evil to come, the corruption of bodies. The cold touch of strangers.


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