THE ANT LIEUTENANT TELLS ME OF HIS RETURN
by David Callan
Black soil collapsing onto rock.
Beetles with shining blue backs humming over the water
chilled with rain. Pike angling in the chambers of the dank,
waiting for the naked in the rainfall, stripped clean, gutted, redrawn
from memory by a blind boy against the stiff legs of the herons. Mothers
huddled in stone kitchens, dropping fish, egging the molecules of the water
into frenzy from the pot’s hot walls. Skin, scratched through, dangling
into a snowflake of dolomite sinking slowly in the mossy brink.
My fingerprints are flying toward my eyes, too quick
for me to blink. My hand arcing over colorless glass, finger wet
against the rim: the cylinder caught in the motion of the fingertip, hum—
glass shifting into another pitch. Had been petals in a cut glass bowl,
what’s beautiful is dirt. I want oil, hands rough against my cheek,
Go. Leave me here dripping,
horse gnawing at the scarecrow’s glove. I feel his face
becoming lips. His eyes close. I kiss the lids. Rich boy
whizzing with his back against the car door, dribbling his Bermudas
as I shake it dry. My hand tugs at a button. Hush. Sunspots
make lenses jump. The old can’t see us, argue about what we should be doing
with our bodies, the broken barking in the damps. Moonlight on fungi, frightening the girl
with the dead child hidden in the tree. The nurseries of babies she will bake.
The kid who wanted the big popsicle. Could not have. The sea
beneath the night sky green with heat, claws
filling with the chilly water, with pods of kelp
and crabs the size of dimes—I stick my finger behind the buckle
of the drunk boy to forget. The wind is filled with turtle,
shadows getting longer as they pour across the stained wood from the light bulb.
Steelworkers shirking the pulleys to polish their fishing poles. The peepshow—
it’s a bird, a hawk, a beaked man with a book. Buck up, cubby!
Wipe your nose and take a number.
Cinder at the snuffed wick—thin lips pulling back from having blown.
Grit and flurry. I have only tropes to touch you with, it hurts
to stand or sit upright. I lie above this city (San Francisco)—did I come to die
in this imaginary life? Eyelids bleeding and weeping,
looking for me. Opened to vision. Closed.
David James Callan has published poems in Cimarron Review, Tampa Review, exquisite corpse, Scythe, Dislocate, Anemone Sidecar, North, Frisk, Delmar, Figdust Review, and other journals.