Gravitational Toll

A cat lands on its sulfur pink feet, a penny on its lottery
scratched head. A vowel
bomb pops out an airplane’s stomach as a child drops
from a bridge into high
water, back toward that familiar womb where time deletes
time. Additionally, a pharmacist
ODs on his triple prescription the same way fire
shakes hands with winter
wheat in late summer, smoke rings haloing its eyes.
Last year a million couples
decided love wasn’t legally enough and I’ve finally
stopped caring why. A million,
but I’m bad with stats. They say in twenty years
the disease will have consumed
the bats, the glaciers all melted into baths. They say luck
then they kneel. Say god
then clip in a new automatic magazine. This is not a catalogue
of hurt, not a calendar
upon which to negotiate the earth. This is the new regime,
which is the old indifference,
which I’m saying with flesh in my teeth is the moment
between choosing and choosing
not to. I am begging you: drink the new hell, let your lungs
spill with the wishes we’ve fulfilled.


That feel when your stomach is actually a mouth
and someone is throwing a bowling ball wrapped
in a tube sock down that dark alley as if the uvula
were the last standing pin, a name erased on a sheet
of paper as if the whole person would disappear.
That feel when you wake up older. That feel
of a country ripped in half simply by tearing a gas station
map. I am creating a new fault line, a continental
divide. I am on a honeymoon with the devil. Some
feels give birth to other feels but the robin’s egg
only leaks out spiders. This is an internet hay market,
the watchtower’s stray eye. Put on your most violent
shirt and say hello to grocery store windows with a pipe
bomb. That feel when your breath is cherry
smoke, an entire calendar of asphyxiation. Feel of god-
lessness ever after. Feel between feels like a knife
splitting open the glued thighs of young lovers.
All the red glory, all the holy holy of lit torches
filled with black sun, liquid gunmetal. When I say
feel I mean give me any good reason, any blistered
language to peel off with a razor blade. When you say
this isn’t finished, that I make no sense, you mean
we’ve taken another body and shaped it like a willow.
Then we take other bodies and hang them from it.
Now take your own body and cancel yourself out.

The Unbecoming

Last week a couple of twenty somethings played chess
with a chef’s knife across the chest of a complete
stranger. Down the road from the old town grocery,
down the block from Gracie’s newly renovated kitchen.
They threw the unidentifiable body like a quartered mule
deer into a porcelain tub and let an array of chemicals —
fireworks parachuting through a waterfall — consume
skin and sinew and bone. This must be how we commit
ourselves to absence. To discovering the countless definitions
for opposite. How many faces must we wear before we appear
at our own? Florida happens everywhere. Christians pray
for other Christians. Unborn children fill the silk balloon
of a womb and upon arrival find oxygen too thick
a mask. All this waiting for the waiting to end. A guillotine
kiss for switching worlds. Outside, buffalo breathe in
the dark maple earth. We need them to be prehistoric
forever. Need them, in spite of us, to find mercy in the rain.

For more information about this piece, see this issue's legend.

Philip Schaefer’s debut collection of poems Bad Summon (University of Utah Press, 2017) won the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and he’s the author of three chapbooks, two co-written with friend and poet Jeff Whitney. He won the 2016 Meridian Editor’s Prize in poetry, has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and in the Poetry Society of America. He tends bar in Missoula, MT.

The Chinese Wall, Bob Marshall Wilderness

It's just south of Glacier National Park, and I spent 3 days backpacking in it for the first time this summer. It's unbridled, and much less traversed than its neighboring park.