By Samuel Piccone
I feel most like his son because there’s no moonlight,
just the sound of his axe to prairie darkness,
brush on dead brush, the breath it takes
to run from sirens chasing in the distance.
Every hack and gasp erases the memory
of how small he looked
before he stole me from my mother’s house—
his wedding band glinting window glass,
the silver ache on his face
as he stared at the handyman’s tool belt
necktied on her bedroom doorknob.
I wonder if he knew
I was hoping for this, to be taken
under his muscled shadow. I’d forgotten
how much bigger he is than the moon.
To say I wish you’d stayed
would be a lie—
I swallowed tears like field pebbles
but learned home is a river to fear drowning in,
a mutagen some people carry
because they’ve grown to love the illness.
I can’t embrace my wife or eat an Iowa Braeburn
without tasting toxins on the skin.
The only part of me that isn’t prairie comes from you,
my wanting for the first taste of anything new
to find me, my choking time and again
on feldspar and creekbed soapstone.
The night I was conceived, you inhaled
too much darkness from the pasture,
and when I was born without breath,
you held yours, held the dead
stink of grassland under my nose and waited
until I wailed, and that was enough.
I want to believe warmth
is what two people survive upon
when there’s nothing left to burn,
and the closer I hold you
the less I’ll feel like snow
falling on the Yampa river at nightfall,
unsure if my dissolving is an act
of giving or taking.
But look at the alder branches
splintered in our fireplace,
every white limb a fragment
of itself, little bones
refusing to ash
with the rest of the body.
Invention of the 20th Century Honeymoon
The waves are meant to drown out everything except the naked dawns,
the happiness of being lost in the tropical brass of Hotel Moana Oahu.
You won’t hear the factory whistle or the oxen’s yoking jangle.
The hotel photographer will shout from under his tintype curtain,
We only get one shot at this, so breathe as little as possible,
and for a moment your upside down reflection in his lens will make the two of you
look tiny and alone; the last of the newlyweds on a void of black coast.
But then you hear water. The foam climbs the beach, warm sand
between your toes as the cocktail umbrella catches enough breeze to shift
from one side of the coconut to the other. Everything is perfect
because you’ve forgotten it’s all an invention—the catalpa softness of a lover’s hand,
the sugary aroma in an undying garden of frangipani, it’s memory
before it finishes existing. Like a canvas painted over a thousand times
with blue watercolor, the picture always comes out looking exactly like a dream.
Samuel Piccone is the author of the chapbook Pupa, which was awarded Editors’ Choice in the 2017 Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize with Anhinga Press. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including The Southeast Review, Passages North, American Literary Review, and Midwestern Gothic. He received an MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University and serves on the poetry staff at Raleigh Review. Currently, he resides and teaches in Nevada.