O’ King build me more templar
more handsome and muscular.
Build me a chest made of barley fire.
Set it ablaze each morning for sunlight.
Build me legs quick as a chariot,
light as a doe’s, strong as a current runs through a river. It
must all mean something if I am the third son of my father. It
must all mean something if my body is a ravaged temple.
What does it mean if his body is a ravaged temple? Wretched chariots
we carry burdened with copper and birch bark inside muscled
and fatty hearts. Siken wrote about bodies being possessed by light,
I should have known those antlers were never copper but always fire.
Your tongue always tasted of fire.
The ash of it.
The lie of it. But one hundred legs of running men leaves me light
around the temples.
I have a weakness for muscular.
I have a brain full of char rioting
in an underwater circus. I hold my breath as his chariot
is unplugged from the wall. The immediate silence. No more fire
here. I wanted you to be muscular
and fit, healthy as an ox. The attraction I feel for it.
We can only build the most modest of temples
when all we have is moonlight.
Moonlit / chariot / racing toward a temple
fire / The idea of it / muscular
I’ve always loved Absalom, not because he’s handsome and muscular
but because he had the King’s heart. Let there be light.
Let it / arrive in a horse-drawn carriage.
Let it arrive as fire.
O’ King build my body a temple,
make my heart more corpuscular than muscular. Make me a chariot
light of ire.
It's so lonely and cold inside this scalpel-ruined templum.
Copyright © 2020 by b: william bearhart. Reprinted with the permission of Carrie Bearhart. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
The corpses weigh nothing, nearly nothing, even your breath
is breeze enough to scatter them
We steamed them in tupperware with a damp sponge
then we tweezed the stiff wings open
The wing colors would brush off if you touched them
3,000 butterflies raised and gassed
and shipped to Evolution, the store in New York
rented by an artist hired to design a restaurant
He wanted to paper the walls with butterflies
Each came folded in its own translucent envelope
We tweezed them open, pinned them into rows
on styrofoam flats we stacked in towers in the narrow
hallway leading to the bathroom
Evolution called itself a natural history store
It sold preserved birds, lizards, scorpions in lucite, bobcat
with the eyes dug out and glass ones fitted, head turned
Also more affordable bits like teeth
and peacock feathers, by the register
a dish of raccoon penis bones
This was on Spring
The sidewalks swarmed with bare-armed people
there to see the city
You could buy your own name in calligraphy
or written on a grain of rice
by someone at a folding table
Souvenir portraits of taxis and the Brooklyn Bridge
lined up on blankets laid over the pavement
The artist we were pinning for had gotten famous
being first to put a dead shark in a gallery
For several million dollars each he sold what he described
as happy pictures which were rainbow dots assistants painted
on white canvases
I remember actually thinking his art confronted death,
that’s how young I was
We were paid per butterfly
The way we sat, I saw the backs
of the other pinners’ heads more than their faces
One’s braids the color of wine, one’s puffy headphones, feather cut
and slim neck rising from a scissored collar, that one
bought a raccoon penis bone on lunch break
Mostly we didn’t speak
Another life glimpsed in a detail mentioned, leaving or arriving
She lived with a carpenter who fixed her lunches
Come fall I’d be in college
I smelled the corpses on my fingers when I took my smoke break
leaning against a warm brick wall facing the smooth white headless
mannequins in thousand-dollar shift dresses
The deli next door advertised organic toast and raisins on the vine
Mornings, I tried to learn from eyeliner
and shimmer on faces near mine on the train
Warm fogged imprint on a metal pole
where someone’s grip evaporated
Everyone looking down when someone walked through
asking for help
At Evolution, talk radio played all day
A cool voice giving hourly updates
on the bombing of another city which it called
The pinner in headphones sometimes hummed
or started a breathy lyric
I watched my tweezers guide the poisonous exquisite
blue of morpho wings
Their legs like jointed eyelashes
False eyes on the grayling wingtips
to protect the true face
The monarch’s wings like fire
pouring through a lattice
Copyright © 2020 by Margaret Ross. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 22, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Tarfia and Fita
The rabbit has a funny set of tools. He jumps.
or kicks. muffled and punching up. In pose
the rabbit knows, each side of his face to whom.
he should belong. He hobbles and eyes. This
is the dumb bun allegiance. This bunny, even dry and fluff
is aware, be vicious. will bite down your finger stalk.
will nick you good in the cheery web of your palm.
Those claws are good for traction. and defense.
This bunny, forgive him. There is no ease. His lack
of neck is all the senses about a stillness.
stuck in a calm. until household numbers upend
his floor. until the family upsets the nest
and traipses off. Then stuck in a bunny panic.
We each stab at gratitude. In our nubbing, none
of us do well. We jump. We kangaroo. We soft seeming,
scatter and gnaw. Maybe the only way forward
is to sleep all day. one eye open. under the sink.
Like the rabbit, we could sit in our shit.
Chew at the leaf of others’ dinner. Make
of each tile on the floor a good spot to piss. No,
it doesn’t get much better. And like the rabbit
we do not jump well from heights. We linger the dark
until it is safe to come out. To offer a nose.
a cheek for touch. the top of a crown. Nothing
makes us happier than another rabbit.
Copyright © 2020 by francine j. harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 26, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
after Alexander Pushkin
Did anyone ever ask any one of Nikita’s daughters
if they wanted a vagina from the devil’s basket.
conjured by a witch and stored with so little ice.
an organ that had been ridden cross-country on
horseback. had no mind of its own and had flown
up into the trees with all thirty-nine to get stuck up
in the leaves. Clearly not queer at all given that it flew
down at the site of any old whatsit. and furthermore
not even to fuck it, just to crawl back into a box
like the whatsit wanted of the crew of thingums. Witch
only knows how many grimy fingers the poor things
endured. No one asked the tzar’s daughters
if they wouldn’t rather be holeless, lipless and better
unbewitched by devil and hag and flasher
envoy and kingly pop than to lift their skirts
to anyone wanting to see what was missing. or unmissed.
Copyright © 2020 by francine j. harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.