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M. Wright

Lateral Cuniform


Construction & Winter


Lateral Cuniform

I thought elegy poems were about living.
Make some sandwiches in a tree house
and run straight into the sky without sunscreen.
Take a week off work and listen to Robert Johnson
records at the right speed. Even if there was a god
I’ve made a career out of devils and crossroads. I make
a right angle with the new dirt for the body
looking left and right at the others. I’m a variation of every person.
The jealousy drips from my shoulders like a cape.
I want to pull apart my bones to see how many
variations are in me. I string up my phalanges along a
clothesline. They just dry in the sun and nobody gets hurt.
I take the experiment too far. I look the talus right
in the eye and it’s a Whitten painting all newspapered and
cracked and ascending. My ankle is the cold museum wall
that is allowed to hang the moment freewill was language
and there are billions of people in my feet.

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There are seven of us
on our backs in the truck bed

watching reruns in a drive-in theater
south of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

The Enterprise travels at warp speed
against a backdrop of stars and

Minnesotan honey locusts
and our mouths shuffle

popcorn to make room for language. We
praise the mosquito and its dance

in the projector light. It’s as if our winged
antihero were enacting some ritual in syncopation

with the aftershock of Max Roach. If it lands
on my skin I could end jazz forever.

I feel the urge to summon the insect,
making promises of neutrality

where the ulna meets the radius
that it might encourage the dancer to refuel

in my hangar before flying off to busk
the rest of the parking lot.

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Construction & Winter: was this ad relevant?

There are two kinds of seasons. / I thought they were performing an autopsy /

in the road without admonition. / We weren’t given / the viewer discretion / advisory. /

There are fewer / distractions in January. / The flat saw made my path its business /

with no / consideration for me or my kingdom. / I half expected the hearts of the people /

to shoot up from the geyser / of smoke and street. / Orange cones fell /

from the sky and stuck / to my head and arms. / They acupuncture my body / that I may /

relax as I’m being shucked. / I have seen the hands / that reach into beehives / full

of diamonds / and pull out casino chips and buffet vouchers. / I thought I was in /

charge here. / By the time / the carpenter has measured the length of the tarsis / I

realize what’s going on / in the street is a burial. / The casket wood stands / like horse

blinkers so / all I can see is the billboard / way up there / and it says save big money.

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The lungs you make when you free
form speak into the rings of earth to take
cover               how it feels to half stare
down the barrel of the telescope you’re holding.

It’s lighting the candle at the hips too            when
they reach out and grab the west coast and I can’t
tell if things are getting serious or if it’s just prattle.

I ignore the new census but can’t drown the happenstance
whistle             between the newscaster’s teeth
every time she public radio careens another cassssualty in
this tiny city.

The United States Post Office has been charged
with bookkeeping the body count and hosting
community briefings on the local        radio   waves.

And they still sell stamps for some reason
the voice crackling woman                 sounds
like the retired ghost of Harry Caray.

My dad           hated the Cubbies because his friends
watched Cubbies games when he just wanted
to backyard play and grow up normal so he could raise
me and my sister normal too               and we each
have seven White Sox caps in our shirt drawers.

I remember when we were bred for lines
over words and hand raising questions           black eye
at recess in a beautiful vintage way, my silence bought
with a Barry Bonds baseball card and a handshake.

There was a backpack charm made of beads clipped to me
when the weight of a single speed
crescendoed into the pit of a peach
and flags raised up like flooding in my neighborhood.

It’s love that is the reason extinction and survival are
half-siblings                 my sister and I made it
through a night involving a ladder, a window
and a fire when we were kids doing our best.
I fall asleep with sirens shaking the moonlight
and rations duct taped to my skin.

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M. Wright is the author of Dear Dementia which is currently featured in the 25th annual Poets House poetry showcase. M. was just nominated for Best of the Net and his poems have recently appeared in Glass Poetry Press, Saint Paul Almanac, Temenos Journal, Into the Void, and others. More:

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