It’s summer here so soda pop and blue
jeans in the trees. I am peeling
my sunburn on a bus bound for Saratoga
Springs where I will lob my father’s
ashes on the line where the racehorses
finish one at a time, and as they do,
the mist of a million particles
of ash in the air, all likeness will disappear
between us. I had built a boundary
out of skin where I sat quietly
until blood was the only moving
thing on a map of where we are.
On the dirt track, horses fill
their lungs in the sun and urge on.
When a losing horse dips
its head to greet me, his black whiskers
tickle the flesh of my neck. Why
do all hearted creatures stink?
I am asked by my brother’s
youngest child, Is horse your favorite
or least favorite mammal?
I say
don’t beg the Lord if the sky is
a gray roof beneath which
you have waited all day to see
gallop something graceful, swift.

More by Christopher Salerno

If You Must Hide Yourself From Love


It is important to face the rear of the train
as it leaves the republic. Not that all
 
departing is yearning. First love is
a factory. We sleep in a bed that had once
 
been a tree. Nothing is forgot.
Yet facts, over time, lose their charm,
 
warned a dying Plato. You have to isolate
the lies you love. Are we any less
 
photorealistic? I spot in someone's Face-
book sonogram a tiny dictum
 
full of syllogisms. One says: all kisses come
down to a hole in the skull,
 
toothpaste and gin; therefore your eyes
are bull, your mouth is a goal.

Is It Better Where You Are?

The bakery’s graffiti either spells HOPE
or NOPE. But hope and results
are different, said Fanny Brawne to her Keats
voiding his unreasonable lung.
Getting off the medicine
completely means light again
blinking to light. Device returned
to its factory settings. The complete black
of before the meteor shower
above the bakery. If you lose the smell
of leather, lemon, or rose,
studies show you will fail at being,
like Keats. I keep watching the same meteor
shower videos on YouTube
where awe is always a question of scale.
Night can be moths or weather, pulled in the dark.
The bakery, now, is beginning to close.
My arrhythmic heart
aches for the kind of dramatic arc
one can’t shop for. Or else to lease
what’s real for a while—
is this the good kind of consumption?
I wonder over the weight
of meaning. The difference between
hull and seed. The sugary
donut and its graceful hole. The greasy
bags that everyone leaves
in the alley leading to my door.
These scraps I work at like a crow.

Notes For Further Study

You are a nobody
until another man leaves
a note under your wiper:
I like your hair, clothes, car—call me!
Late May, I brush pink
Crepe Myrtle blossoms
from the hood of my car.
Again spring factors
into our fever. Would this
affair leave any room for error?
What if I only want
him to hum me a lullaby.
To rest in the nets
of our own preferences.
I think of women
I’ve loved who, near the end,
made love to me solely
for the endorphins. Praise
be to those bodies lit
with magic. I pulse
my wipers, sweep away pollen
from the windshield glass
to allow the radar
detector to detect. In the prim
light of spring I drive
home alone along the river’s
tight curves where it bends
like handwritten words.
On the radio, a foreign love
song some men sing to rise.

Related Poems

The Leash

After the birthing of bombs of forks and fear,
the frantic automatic weapons unleashed,
the spray of bullets into a crowd holding hands,
that brute sky opening in a slate metal maw
that swallows only the unsayable in each of us, what's
left? Even the hidden nowhere river is poisoned
orange and acidic by a coal mine. How can
you not fear humanity, want to lick the creek
bottom dry to suck the deadly water up into
your own lungs, like venom? Reader, I want to
say, Don't die. Even when silvery fish after fish
comes back belly up, and the country plummets
into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn't there still
something singing? The truth is: I don't know.
But sometimes, I swear I hear it, the wound closing
like a rusted-over garage door, and I can still move
my living limbs into the world without too much
pain, can still marvel at how the dog runs straight
toward the pickup trucks break-necking down
the road, because she thinks she loves them,
because she’s sure, without a doubt, that the loud
roaring things will love her back, her soft small self
alive with desire to share her goddamn enthusiasm,
until I yank the leash back to save her because
I want her to survive forever. Don't die, I say,
and we decide to walk for a bit longer, starlings
high and fevered above us, winter coming to lay
her cold corpse down upon this little plot of earth.
Perhaps, we are always hurtling our body towards
the thing that will obliterate us, begging for love
from the speeding passage of time, and so maybe
like the dog obedient at my heels, we can walk together
peacefully, at least until the next truck comes.