Two Poems

The Great Die-Up

My hooves break off in snow,
our flat tract slain

in a smash of clouds clapping.
Switchgrass, spurge

clumped inside sheaths of icy
whips, the moon

chimes then shudders. How to
move without the goad?

The first incision a white whistle,
track of nails, stars

warble in their brassy nests.
The hills shrunk up

cold as mirrors and my body
a plank, a black pool

both swollen and compressed.
Stung numb and blood

shot, sunk below the echoes.


Once, I was so patient.

Once, I was mousy and tender and I put out always.
Once, you ought to have seen me growing up in that teeny house

    with the five babies and Mom just died and Dad thought Jesus
    came back to Earth in the year 70 AD.

Once, I had the cracking and busted-up hands of a poor farmer.
Once, I was a mother at the age of nine.

This is the period I will refer to as my “actual insanity.” My
    “internment.” My “lonelymaking.”
Also known as my horrible secret, continent-wide.

You know that expression—all good things must be annihilated.
Well, lesions split up behind my ears like slugs inking their way
    toward my eyes.
I soon became blind. Blind and simultaneously

able to understand everything perfectly. I was the most
    intelligent person in Illinois, and so
it was with ease that I discovered that I lived inside of a prison
    inside of a prison.

With the dawn of my intelligence, my husband (he’s a lawyer, he examines land) called on an alienist. The alienist asked me to empty my pockets. I dramatically turned my pockets completely inside out. What could I have? What have I ever had?

I had a little teeny tiny silver-plated bell in my breast pocket.

During my internment, I was as silent as: the crown molding,
    which was unpeeling.

                                as: the land my husband examines—all that red
                                    peanutly dirt.
                                as: kneading. And needing.

The alienist held out his hand expectantly.

I clutched the little bell until I felt its clapper slide against my
    palm—this I intuited as a request.
I clutched the little bell until it pulverized.

And the alienist—he—he—forcibly unclenched my fist, dumped the powder into his drawstring pouch, and then—he—licked between my fingers all the rest of that fine baby-blue dust.

He insisted on looking me dead in the eyes while he was licking.

(He did not know that I identified as blind.)

But! I had another bell. An invisible bell that I saw in my
—and I could listen to it
just by blinking. When I slept, a clatter of angel hair wound itself
    around me.

When I slept, no one in the world would lick my fingers.

Pretend for a minute that you are me.

Pretend the papers have declared your husband to be a horse’s
Pretend your brother wrote The Bible: Part II.
Pretend your brother once chased you with an ax, and then
    murdered the president.

And by “the president” I mean the President.

For how many seconds could you remain contrite and

And then please recall how I flitted around like a hummingbird
    for decades.
For roughly all my life.

This is why I was able to give my body up to that asylum. My
    body but not my mind.
You know the old saying—

Mind over your pasty waterlogged limbs.

Yes, they tried to drown it out of me.
Some new experimental “treatment”—

My feet were permanently pruned,
my ankles forever blue,
my body altogether hairless and stooping.

They say the lack of empathy is a dead ringer for insanity. I have a
    new theory:

Too much empathy will singe a small hole, just barely noticeable,
   into your soul
and each day you live your magnanimous life, the hole grows
   and it grows
until eventually it becomes a universe

and every piece of you sinks toward its bottom, which is a giant
   rusted drain
inexorably swallowing all of you. Your consciousness is last but it,
   too, slips through

and the only thing left is the one tear you saved, your final lament

for the state of the world, and when that dribbles out—truly, truly
you are left with nothing.

It will also ruin a marriage.

My most empathetic gesture was the day I walked those dirt
to your holding cell, my bouquet smiling up into your tired pink

nasturtium, gladiola, sunflowers, the dandelion heads

snapped off and floated up, a symbol of hope, some promise of

I’ve never been as tender as the day I asked you to end your