You or Your Specter

This night static
provoking the knife
at breast with hands
in prayer at the handle,
threats from the kitchen
where cupboards opened
empty, where we picked
bugs from the flour
one by one, where
you starved feverish
into the flickering cathode
of dawn, the pale light
stale as cereal.
I know why you cried
terror from the stained
carpet as they took us,
the rattle of thick tears
strangled in your quiet
center imploring decency.
your own dog and sister
seeming to betray you.
I wanted so bad
to push back
the black hair from
your face to
see if it was still there.

Falcon

I ate garlic by the clove
Throwing hatchets at the persimmon tree

I could never judge a turnip, a blackbird
Or a highway

I’ve been touched too well by mystery
A gripe would be heretical

Many low and soft amplitudes
Make up the parts of things that people wonder about

An avocado is not a jealous fruit
Nor is it a pithy one

I have made my return
I have loved the flounder

With two eyes on one side
The moss patterns and the rice paddies

The oxygenated bottle of
Wine on the table

I have seen the sun too many times to care about it
There are far too many stars to count and I know this from a lack of trying

Most of my life I was younger
poems returned like a falcon

Sevier Park

A valley of oak
slopes to old stone
gold crimson suffuse
the vein that falls
into a spider’s nest
honeyed wind
moving sun
from thatch to thatch
knocking children
out of trees
and breaking them
grassy history
muddied by death
cut like ravine rock
runners drag their hearts
behind them
an old fruit filled
with blood
god out of the cannon
shattered with the edifice
beneath every blanket
a holocaust
quiet languor
in a cadaver’s shadow
take this plague of
cotton, soft locusts,
a whisper forever starting
in the lungs and
catching the throat

October Song: A Cold Pastoral

If the cleared nostril
is an offering,
I have anointed the
road that fights me,
waited long
for the quiet burn,
staring down through
a red thatch at a white church
not hating it.
The painter’s season, a
sun close without heat,
canopy of still fire,
every tree a flower.
The earth builds its reliquary,
inters a song in hard soil,
faster, the heart is
more real, hiccups
the breath and plumes
in grey talc.
The old wall
knows blood,
covered dirt green,
silent watcher,
silent as forgetting.
Oak old enough
to have held
cadavers, quaint
in peat moss, throating
open a lung,
sputum and enzyme,
I look for you
under my shoe soles,
poem or caryatid
which has kept
the structure from
collapse. Catching
breath from a
promontory in love
with my country
only when it’s dying.

Apostrophe

How real the moon
pomegranate red
upon us in blood

light, I lie
prostrate below
your ankles thankful

and graceless, wet
mess of hair and coughing
deep in that real

remorse unulterior
where the body’s apology
is born but meaningless,

the syntax clotting up
in the thick system
between throat and anus.

And it’s nothing
insurmountable but
it’s real;

so, devoiced,
all I can do is pick peony
and lavender, bind them

with breath, close it in your
hands and hope it is
not also platitude,

aghast at the vain symbols
I have fought you with,
you do not fight but act

as the moon, red and high,
you do not need words
because you are true,

more honest than the earth
which hides and obfuscates
as its structure allows it.

Even now as I write
I bury you in language
which is a death.

Forgive me
always a step behind
and always sorry.

Eric Tyler Benick

Eric Tyler Benick is the author of the chapbook Fox Hunts (2015, Kitty Cat Stevens Press). He is co-founder and editor at Ursus Americanus Press, an online journal and chapbook publication. He is also the creator and curator of Life is Boring, a reading series. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Reality Beach, Vanilla Sex, Birds Piled Loosely, decomP, Souvenir, Fruita Pulp, Keep This Bag Away From Children, and SUSAN the journal. He currently lives with his wife and their cat in the South Inglewood neighborhood of Nashville, TN.

Photograph by Christie MacLean

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