as some things incorrectly have wings, we stamp a chicken into the hood of a cop car. the groundskeeper on break inside the church wonders aloud how much is left of the lord. a boy not part of our boyhood bikes over to us with his feet he’s named individually show and tell. the cop chuckles but straightens out when he sees what I’ve made of my hand. the boy says careful it might stay that way for good.
beauty is the beginning of beauty. a man and a woman wait together for a stripper. you know the man like an intimate thought. like a toddler covered head-to-toe in blue body paint stepping in front of a blue door. the woman is an unfinished stranger whose son comes home to be with war and whose husband rests until laziness subsides. the man is aware he’s the devil and this makes him god. the woman is unaware she’s the devil and this makes it easy. the stripper is watching a horror film and it makes her want to have a child. she decorates her home then tries to remember moving a muscle. the blood you don’t see is fake.
holes in the kingdom
sitting on a decorative toilet in her child’s front yard, the mother scrubs her left wrist with a dry toothbrush. her right wrist squeals to be cut. there’s a wet spot on the grocery bag she wears on her head and the spot spreads. her flower print dress is optimistic. with a crow ever so lightly on his mind, my father writes the address of the electric company on a notecard and slips it into a pocket bible. he tells me to forget what I’ve seen and I wonder if I get to pick. my heart feels more like a broken light bulb the more I breathe and goes to my head the less. beneath the malformed crow my father culls, he gives me the sex talk. he includes that most crows are manna from hell or holes in the kingdom.
a father shepherds his family from the storm cellar as his own father prepares to lose the orchard.
your life is a boy
looking for signs
made by women.
your mother is a vow of silence
you were born to second.
I am nobody I speak of. those alive to nuance, those seeing
a necklace in a grandmother’s clotted leg.
god is not silent. god is forgiven.
there is a god but don’t encourage him. my father means it tenderly. in his attic a painting of a park scene has in it a woman without feet sitting on a bench. without feet because his young mind couldn’t settle on them bare. in the end it seems the wild dog has licked them away. attic that in a drought of weeping became a basement. our poverty was given an oar. my past has a past.
annotations for daughter
the second coming of self harm has entered a town called Both.
having a baby is a mouthful.
think of yourself as a journal death keeps.
we move the cemetery to confirm there is nothing outside of this town. the strip club remains a two man show. leash laws are for dogs and angels. our doctor has a touch of deer worry. exercise is for the birds. god is the pitter patter of imagined feet. our fathers double over in bathrooms from the shame of not calling out for paper. our mothers have done the math. by now, most kids have eaten a popsicle alone in a church. I’m in it for the stick.
the babies my father held.
the hell, the world’s
the parts of the house
that caught fire
vans. the bully
in the dreamy
thought. the daring
suicide, the doubled
Barton Smock lives in Columbus, Ohio. Is the author of infant*cinema (Dink Press, 2016) and editor of the online journal isacoustic*.
paragraph, etc, on process:
These are some, as to why: to make legible, to locally evoke some past arrival, to learn another’s shorthand. As for process, I keep detailed notes on avoidance. How I am afraid, how others. The poem, as seen, is not always what I kept of it.