I’d thought a zebra would be
in the break up.
Not that I’d seen a zebra.
I hadn’t seen one in months.
Not at zoos. Not on Animal Planet
Not in National Geographic.
Even looked for horses, thinking
if a stripe were flying by, it’d land, and
that would be the end, but
no horses, rarely even stripes,
no zebras, definitely no zebras. Maybe
if I’d looked for a mouse. Maybe a mouse.
The end of the last relationship
involved a hot dog—true story.
No one expects a hot dog.
He said “hot dog,” so how could I not
believe him? I mean, a hot dog by itself?
At least you’d expect them in 8-packs.
I knew this time it wouldn’t be a hot dog.
So I looked for a zebra.
But I couldn’t find one,
and then I heard a rip,
a slight rip,
He was Achilles.
I wanted to chew the gristle of his heel.
Imagine shank and leather. Imagine war sewn up in flesh. He was that.
He was breastbone
with worn blood dried and not blood-colored anymore.
I wanted to crack into the marrow. To taste.
Steam softens a bone,
And under, he was tender, he was marrow. And maybe
he was the corpse you slept with,
the rustling in the bone cage beside you.
He had been that. And
He was the sweat he rubbed on me.
I wish I were sorry. Say that.
First Position: On the pedestal of her feet, an embrace,
rehearsed, practiced. Her hands rest
on a lover, on the small of his back,
except he is not here.
Second Position: Nearer spread eagle,
this is the closest my mother will ever get
to flying, her arms against the horizon.
No, her arms tied to horses
each running from the other.
She will tear like fine cloth.
Third Position: Although the right foot places itself
in front of the left, their awkwardness
prevents her walking. She pulls
the right hand back, but it seems to droop,
unable to recover. The other arm
she makes no effort to bend.
Fourth Position: She attempts to walk, but feels the great
difficulty of balance. One hand drops a weight
and floats above her. The other catches
the weight and cradles it.
Fifth Position: The legs move together, twisted,
her position of resignation, but the arms,
the hands face each other. Ready
to kiss. Ready for any action
this final meeting might imply,
violent or otherwise.
Amy’s a shank dog. And the guy
at the register whispers Blankenship.
He knew where that was when he was three.
Now the name represents the place even less.
Dogs bark. Amy doesn’t. Amy
pants. Something I should have forgotten:
walking with my brother and thinking,
I’ll remember this forever.
We didn’t have a dog then.
My grandfather had a grocery store
with an antique cash register
that didn’t work. He kept receipts in it
he hoped would become real money.
Amy called me the other night, wanted
to come over, wanted to have a drink.
Liar, I thought. Dogs don’t drink.
They lap. I call them lawn ornaments,
but my parents have what they call
dogs. It’d make my grandfather proud.
One day they barked.
What millstone grinds the morning to dust and rolls thunder out the door, grabbing its toast and hot, black tea; returns afternoon in a red station wagon and plods as a stale, dry cloud into the house, nicking to the corner of the butcher’s block, dinting at panhandles, and at my arms once until I saw the destruction I caused; at evening is a plastic bag, double-knotted, half-full of water, easy to puncture, has punctured, the hole patched up tight; and disappears into its night bedroom where it labors to excoriate its dull membrane and pours itself to sleep?
was born and raised in one of the smallest towns imaginable—Bee Branch, Arkansas, and during breaks from had three assembly jobs at factories and a rather lengthy stint in a feed mill. He has lived in England and China, and is studying poetry at Georgia State University. His poetry has been nominated for two Pushcart prizes and been published in can we have our ball back?, Diner, Poetry Motel, RedActions, Segue, Staccato, Story South and several other journals. He likes Atlanta and hopes you'll come to visit some time.