Denied a detour through the marsh
after the first quarter of my life,
I picked up an ice pick leaned up against
a pine tree. The past is frozen, I said
to myself–Ok, and I'm hot and ready to swing
this steel into crystallized needles, make a platter
of snow of them. When the cell is full,
the wall is impenetrable to the human
standing outside of it and the human
standing inside. Today I fear this parasite.
I fear the tiny coiling of the skyscraper
over a meager village where false coins are made.
The inward ventilation shafts cave in
over the Windows 95 computers in the back offices.
There is no weather in the heart, no ebbing bath
outside a bamboo hut. What the skin
feels most in the rib cage is a knotting tendon
and under the light the narrow crater where miners
excavate the replica of a more ancient ziggurat.
What I needed most when the house
became empty except for my plates
and box of mixed greens, cans
of sardines, a Turkish coffee pot,
was a quiver of arrows–I needed
to strike the oak to hear the thunk
of the same matter on each other
as dogs bark into the thicket
at coyotes howling on the train tracks.
In loss there is a bowl. In gravity
there is always a floor to curl on.
In my brain, a golden heart encased
in incense dustings. To be open
the door must leave its frame.
A long hallway. Skylights. Crawl space.
Walking it, my head walks backwards
into the morning with my hand on your
waist bare and chilled above the wool
along our thighs like unwound equators.
But there are two of them
out at the lake
flipping cards over
and binding their
wrists to the table
in stubbornness and plight.
Inside, brussel sprouts
steam on the gas range.
I passed two horses today,
a galvanized bucket,
and tree cutters. Served
some food to customers
calling out their ticket
numbers on the white slips.
If I could undress
either of these two women
I would walk to my mirror,
looking into my electric
irises and talk talk talk.
Day always shorter than wheat
and the pleasure of instruction–
You do this. You do that–
carves the clay. Liquid
and a cup of victory
rises over the Kings head
and his court falls down
like a poppy under moonlit
bunker fire. One way home
is to forget about it.
Another is to toss a six pack
ring set into a trash compactor.
This way the suddenly squashed
are with the walls like ferns.
A boat ganached with foam salt water.
About Noah Burton
Noah Burton lives in New Hampshire. His poems have appeared in the PEN America Poetry Series, Yes Poetry, Paperbag, among others. He is a recipient of the 2015 Dick Shea Memorial Prize in Poetry judged by Tanya Larkin. More at www.noahburton.com