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Todd Dillard

Someone Has to Polish the Statues at the Top of Skyscrapers

In the Opposite of Neverland

Silver Balloon Caught in my Rhododendrons


Postcard to my Future Self

In the Woodlands

Someone Has to Polish the Statues at the Top of Skyscrapers

Which means someone has, 
ladder in hand, leather harness 
strapped to their gut, keychain 
jangle of S-clips and buckles 
clamoring at their hips, 
climbed the brow of morning fog
when the night before
their wife served them
divorce papers, has winched and
shimmied and bloody-knuckled up, 
has smeared polishing goop 
on long-dead green-cloyed faces, 
has, fingernails moon-crescented
by the soil of their brother's grave,
brought a rag to copper cheeks, 
bronze helmets, brass flanks 
of a rearing stallion, has interred
the murk, the gunk, the pigeon-
shit scabs of yesterday into
a mausoleum of bright, has done this 
on those clearest days 
when gravity's argument 
is the most profound, 
impossible to say "no" to, 
has said "no" anyway, 
has hovered over earth 
with a God’s eye view of every car 
wreck, every held up gas station,
every ambulance-gutted block
and chosen the work still 
to do, the shine.

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In the Opposite of Neverland

Where we must think happy thoughts to stay on the ground
our baby levitates over us like a tiny parade float,
bumping into walls, our trailing succulents,
fan blades dust-fuzzed and never turned on.

We refuse to become moons, 
to gravity ourselves into an orbit around her.
"It’s better this way," we say.
(The ground inches closer, then backs away.)

Out the window dogs walk themselves 
below vertical leashes,
boys drop basketballs into rims,
the mailwoman rappels down house edifices.

Today’s deliveries: a net for the crib,
a mop for the footprints on the ceiling.
Our baby screams; we rise up to reach her.
Then, slow as plastic grocery bags, we fall.

Our love brings us down.

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Silver Balloon Caught in my Rhododendrons

After the body’s been removed
and the family’s been removed,

the sheets stripped off the bed
and the tendrils unplugged from the loquacious machines,

after all this, someone has to gather 
the exhausted carnations, the defeated get well cards,

the bright and ignorant balloons 
and decide what to do with them.

Let the flowers go to the comatose husband
down the hall, the one who moves 

like a dog dreaming (get well 
the flowers say; come closer before it’s too--).

Let the cards be tied to the balloons’ strings, 
and the balloons released in the rehab garden

over a one-eyed girl squeezing a tomato
until it unspools through the gaps 

between her fingers. Up, up, up 
the balloons, the cards go, 

until they reach the dead, 
who reply by sending the cards back, 

the ink blurred, the paper chewed,
the words and names illegible, but oh 

the message, let it reach the one who needs it,
and let it, too, be clear.

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the sun said. And Icarus did.

And we watched him 
flutter like an electric bill 
flung from Olympus,

and when we looked up 
again the sun taunted us--

Look me in the eye, it said,
its chemtrail dreadlocks 
menacing as kraken arms--

but we were too busy 
seeing what we didn't know 
had been ours all along: 

the dream, that unmanned blue
where the flight had been,

could be.

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Postcard to my Future Self

The record done, the needle unspools 
a lonely breathing. Outside, 

passing cars rush like bread-
thieves carrying loaves of light.

I must confess: I am sad, thinking 
about your sadness. I am grateful for it too. 

The thoughts you ferry to me press against my skin, 
warm as a Black Dog’s breath. 

I play for them a tune 
on the wide wooden piano of our floorboards. 

(You know how it goes.) 

Lift the needle and you'll get a silence 
like a silence you've heard before. 

But you haven't!

Each quiet is a new quiet 
opening up its arms.

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In the Woodlands

I took turns dancing 
in the yard with two sisters

Louis Armstrong on the record player
Gerald dragged to the porch

4am drunk our bare feet gathering 
dew like small rooted things

until we floated out of our skins
the way notes rise from sheet music

and threaded ourselves like cards 
into dawn’s bicycle spokes

when I arrived 
finally back in my body

in an office in a rolling chair 
before a hulking desk 

20 years had turned into names 
traced on the back of a river

"how did I get here" I asked
the wrong question

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Todd Dillard's work has appeared in numerous publications, including Best New Poets, McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies, Electric Literature, Nimrod, Superstition Review, and Split Lip Magazine. His work was selected as a finalist for the 2018 “Best Small Fictions” anthology, and has been nominated numerous times for the “Best of the Net” and the Pushcart anthologies. He is a recipient of the Birdwhistle Poetry Prize. His debut collection, Ways We Vanish, came out in 2020 from Okay Donkey Press.

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