Five Poems

edge of town -- too far to swim -- only thunder
stuffed dead babies -- until the mail comes

by Michael McNeilley

Michael McNeilley is editor of Zero City and the Olympia Review, and fiction editor of The Hawk. His poems and stories have appeared in hundreds of publications, including Chicago Review, New York Quarterly, Mississippi Review, Slipstream, Poet, Oyster Boy Review, Plazm, Exquisite Corpse, Bouillabaisse, and on websites worldwide. His latest book, Situational Reality, will be published by Dream Horse Press of San Jose, CA in Spring 1997.

edge of town

we were just kids and
there was no place for us
to go no friend's house
the first car years away
and waiting was a
slow sweet death

so we walked in sunset
silence down between
the rows of august corn
in the closest field
not too far from her house
nothing in our hands

undressed one another
our heat-numbed fingers
in greying texas dusk
and fell together grasping
naked mad apostles to
a god of need and sweat

traced hollow heat shadows
on dry dark earth
in thin shelter of leaves
she brushed black dirt
from my skin I rubbed
her scent on my face

but it was not enough
there could not be enough
and we pulled august back in
both of us crying laughter
as the sun dropped away
as the stars came

too far to swim

every time I look at it
the level in the bottle
a little lower

as though some thirsty
things were swimming
around in there

and it's not bourbon
I'm thirsty for but
where are you

a self-protective nausea
comes and goes
but I will keep this

and I eat some
sourdough bread and
a piece of cheese

a tiny water ballet
circles in this glass
starring esther williams

she calls again
I love you she says
I miss you

come out she says
come out and play
but I don't feel well

the bottle empties
where will they swim
when it runs out

only thunder

it makes
no sense
how love can grind
the heart
though intention counts
for something
it is not fatal
on its own
you don't die until
the car hits
the bridge abutment
the mind plays tricks
but illusion is
essentially benign
you don't drown
until the water
has risen
you are not eaten
by the lion's
silent stare
thunder cannot
split the tree
blood is tangible
and no matter
the distance
the fall
won't kill you
until you step out
into the

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