by Daniel Neff

My mouth is an omission, yet I imagine my words
Hairy and winged, like bats housed in the chimney
On the roof where my siblings and I smoked,
Or spoke of morels and our grandfather dying,

The roof with chipped tooth shingles that peeled off
In our hands. There are tchotchke stories I meant to tell you:

I smoked weed for the first time with my Jewish cousins
Not knowing my mother grew pot in the ditch;
I took the lenses out of my dad’s glasses,
Wore them in the shower after he left;
I drove the tractor without a shirt, Styrofoam
Hairless chest more honest than my shitless stop sign eyes;
I took my hips for granted and lived life
Differently than the Amish boys who were my only friends.
I wanted to describe to you my father hitting a swan in the head.
My brother asked me why girls pee sitting down.
I was seven. It is the only memory I have
From when Mom dated Zelda, and I told my brother
I wanted to wear lacy brassieres and fishnet stockings.
Our feet had little rings of saturated mulberry purples and reds;
My brother told me my teeth were too yellow.
Later, men and women were rhetorical devices
People use when l’appel du vide becomes too strong.
No, it’s not worth it, you can’t be another Jackson Pollack
painting I hide under my bed, as people do with the gifts
They’re scared to see daily—
Cracked teapots, musty windbreakers, and ugly self-portraits.
These metaphors are nothing
But my lack of ability
To express melancholy outside of rhetoric
About radish greens and saanen goats.
Everything has become birds.
Let me try to describe these memories again:
I sat on the porch swing singing post-pop ballads,
Remembering the nail that went through my foot when I was thirteen,
The peach scratch-and-smell stickers ornamenting each of my clavicles;
I went inside the house and attempted to use Ethernet
Cables to hang myself from the bathroom shower rod,
Four minutes until the rod broke away from the wall.
This was before I knew you, before I asked you for apple juice.
Here’s another fucking anecdote:
My brother ran a car over my feet twice.
Once in a day trip to see him, he only said,
I see you’re gaining weight. I am poor
Semblances of people I thought I should be.
Blame requires imagining words are emotions.
My brother ate an apple after his bike race,
Sang “The Weight” on car trips; he mowed all the
mint Down when he brought back fish he’d caught,
So the smell of butchered trout would be covered up.
I learned to emote from my brother’s musical renditions
And I learned to yell when I’m upset from the smell of mint.
All birds are falcons and they look like they’re falling
When they fly, taking their aviation for granted.
I will continue to be angry for the times
You said my head is a silo, and I would forgive
If forgiveness wasn’t as manipulative as ducks
Who ask for bread and refuse to fly away.