Where sleeps the wind, where sleep the bones
of pterodactyls and other
flighted monsters, where sleep
tusks and horns of those
scraping the air’s belly.
Where sleeps the first eater of meat,
last man proudly to decline.
Sleep the very atoms to make
peace, clouds hell on the teeth
but so delicious, ballooning.
Where in dreams two boys swordfight
with rotary phones, where fossil
records move from symphony to jazz
and a girl with her thumbs
hammers love into dying.
The stores close early or else
open forever, wash in the waves
an ocean forgot, the mountains
erased with certitude.
Where a man pirated ships
filled with moving pictures
of a family crushed by lead,
the chains of their necks
slowly turning gold but a promise
to suffer, heads high
while the dark arms of a cross
flare to purpose.
Where the house doors close,
open a street where sleeps
breath, where sleeps the penance
of men who in everything
do nothing, pick at ashes.
Where sleeps the fire of the last boy
smitten with homecoming.
Where he sings to sleep suspicion,
pacing as the throat of a skeleton
his every future step
until the last.
I find the hawk stiff and tucked beneath
my father’s backyard pine, a small gift
lacking giver, lacking recipient.
I lift it with silvery and blackened
tongs from the grill—all my father’s tools,
down to shovels or even a rake,
have disappeared over time like
little pilgrims crossing the Jordan
or explorers, finding all, returning
to their homelands. Really they’re taken
by shiftless teenagers up the street
or maybe by my brother, lonesome
for our father but in need.
It’s two o’clock. My wife is at work, teaching
children to believe their own lies.
My father sleeps, knows the truth already.
I am a song the sun hates, and it
changes me, chases me through the yard
moving sprinklers one spouting circle
to the next. I carry the hawk.
Its feet are nearly translucent, brown,
tipped with unseeable black and clutched
tightly in each talon a wad of grass
that doesn’t explain its death,
its untouched position and light belief,
still, it is a moment of wind away.
Or this is my thought, even once
I resign it to the trash bin,
even once I imagine myself its victim.
I sleep a mouse beneath the endless
nothing of everything it navigates
so easily, and there a twitch
in my dream, and there the hawk’s break
from life before either of us knows how, why.
MARVIN SHACKELFORD is the author of a poetry collection, Endless Building (Urban Farmhouse). His stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Epiphany, Superstition Review, Folio, Southern Humanities Review, FiveChapters, and elsewhere. He resides in the Texas Panhandle with his wife, Shea, and earns a living in agriculture.
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Issue 9 Playlist