Oct/Nov 2001 Poetry

Two Poems

by Laird Barron

Art by Bob Dornborg



Saturday I will lay mason dollars
on a mudder
because Wednesday
the weatherman predicted downpours
and yesterday
my sister sprained her rosary playing in the yard
swore the face of Jesus
sprang between chickens
all cried havoc

Friday mama slipped into a coma
said the doctor
a cup of quinine lingers on the dresser
by the basin full of soapy water
but quinine won't break the fever
that rides her
full gallop
while she don't approve of gambling
what she don't know won't and so on

so I made a call on the rotary
to a fat man in the city
with an anchor branded under his collar
he reminds me of a terrible walrus
his eyes are ivory puddles
hacked tusks welling purple in their sockets
those ripe plums crushed by workboots
and thus merciless
his voice scratches like a rusted brush
dipped in a lye bucket

above that bucket a rope creaking
against the crossbeam supporting Atlas
angels clash angry trumpets
reflected in three envelopes
shining upon the kitchen table
dread petitions I read with trembling fingertips
memorized for a wound in the neck
a noose I

said put my shekels on the win at the wire
twenty-two to one
took static for silence and a click sealed it
my hands won't stop shaking
when I raise them to block the sunlight
like my old man resting in the potato patch
I have learned to pray for rain


The Bad Neighbor

I hate the man upstairs. The handsome carpenter.
I have wished evil on him. No Luck. Not yet.
Blame doldrums weather. Bitch-hot July

humps this town. Listless lay at best.
Through a broken window, smell her. Rancid
groin, rank as blown suet.

Streetwalkers stagger tick-thick.
Gibbous crows prance bellied wires. Pigs roast
in rolling ovens parked

under overpasses dripping blue shade. Radio silence.
July is a butcher's mallet.
A hammer whacked against the temple of an ox.

I hate the man upstairs. His beastly racket.
Him and his drill. Him and his saw. How I hope
he might saw off a finger. Just one.

It don't stick in my craw he likes dark meat.
I'm chopped liver, but I'm not jealous.
I don't hunger to match those dim groans that escape

flimsy walls. Paint peeled, bleeding
in the heat.
Christ, this building reeks.


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