From the Vermont High School Writing Contest


Order of Things

BIRDS 
You bind a bird, first, at the cross 
Of wings. 
Like PawPaw ties the boats to dock 
From the scattering of bones 
                                                        to-be, 
You choose their heart & wrap it up. 

The baby’s head 
Left soft at the center. 
Is to hold two fingers 
To the knock of one’s pulse. 
When you hold a bird, you clasp it loosely 
To keep the sailor’s 
music strung taut. 

Here they are again, 
biting off the blue hours. 
Singing sweet to him 
of traffic & how swiftly buildings 
grow up. 
They will sing it just 
like all the city birds do

CATS 
I could tell you how to disappear. 
To shrink in dark 
From a searching hand. 
There’s dust back here 
Which has never been touched 
And shadows 
Thinking 
they’re all alone. 

Blanco is our street cat, 
White and gray 
(from highway soot) 
You can catch him only in feathered touches. 
You can sweep your palm 
And he will sink 
at the spine. 
He is A Vanishing under your fingers 
Like a coin 
Down the sleeve 
Held together only by loose luck.
I imagine there is a 
A little, red heart racing 
Within that white, pull-apart body 
shaking with the city thunder. 
His bones would snap 
Just as easy 
As one sweet for wishing. 

You ask me why I sink from you? 
I tell you, 
    ‘I must have fallen off the roof.’

DOGS 
I want to kill you. 
          so, I bring you up in conversations with my mother. 
          shred you down with my Dog’s teeth 
          until I drop you at the feet of her, 
A bird in pieces. 

Outside, 
The oldest trees are fighting 
to The Final Fall. 
To split a line 
& drop a bird, 
Lying pink and wet. 

They would break to bite. 
          Like Big Dogs 
          In Backyards 
We give them names & fences.

BOYS 
You are always… 
Kicking hungry through dark closets 
& Punching through your sleeves. 
You smear your mother from your cheek 
And strike the ground by the heels 
Like they’re sharpened by 
All that barefoot running. 

Younger Mary 
Owns some banged-up knees. 
battered purple 
From the politics of children & playground games. 
Sometimes she dreams of running faster 
Than the hooligans. 
Of catching her heart 
From that bumper. 
Clanging low, like the cans 
Off a ‘Just Married’ car. 

They are always… 
Spitting something smoothly

Muscled from the crater 
Of that old rotten tooth. 
Never tiring from the horror of 
A short-gasped drop. 
To catch your death. 
& speak it out. 
To swallow and smile.

SUN 
I’m drawing suns in all my letters 
XX 
Big God 
taken in little bites. 
How he condescends me, 
Thumbs tapping the lids of my eyes 
          ‘And open your hands.’ 
I do. 

From the column of his fist 
Two dropped marbles 
For a treat. 
They twinkle something merry 
like I’m running with some change. 
Three-Quarters. 
hot-backed & barefoot. 
bloodying my toes. 

Summer is 
A sticky-fingered boy 
Stirring all the Big clocks round

Like a finger in the drink. 
He is a borrower who gets attached 
Red-eared and full of teeth 
Which gleam with what treasure 
He secrets upon his tongue. 
He’s returning me my taken pieces 
The boy in wild shadows. 
My Titan’s hand 
Reaches down only 
Once a year 
When I’m fed. 
And leaves to warm the back 
Of some other hungry thing. 

The height of him 
Turns my stomach out in solitude 
And makes me think of that one whispered rule. 
That what you see must also see you. 
It was told to me in secret 
And so it must be true.
GMR
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