Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?
The man on the other side of the table
is a variety of sneezes, held together
inside beige by sheer force of lack
of will. What he’s smelled out there
is more sensible than me, but I don’t
so much fault him as marvel at his
restraint. In the face of all joy, this
man chooses the sour eye. He gets
excited at the prospect of a new tie
on father’s day. His hair is a damp
smattering of crumbs from other
people’s meals, and he’s proud of
its pedigree—carries a laminated
copy. Everything about him is
something I don’t understand, something
I would avoid at all costs, and vice
versa, but the difference is he holds
the soft feathers of my future in his
sweaty palms and all I hold is the bill.
This Is the Kind of Place You’re Last Seen In
I want to find a shadowed dirt road,
the kind they made so many of when
I was a kid – that’s why they’re gone:
over-production. Bottom dropped out
of the market. It could be anywhere,
as long as it leads me nowhere slow.
Spindly oaks mixed with overconfident
pines shading the sides. Dust in the air
and the odd rock flying. Remember
when bugs smeared our windshields,
deer darted from the trees in their terrified
game of tag? I would drive it all night
without pulling over. I’ve seen too
much of the world not to sleep behind
a locked door. It’s not that the woods
hide wolves, it’s that they hide what
killed out the wolves. Maybe it would
lead to some old bridge where the kids
used to knock each other up and out.
Spray-paint all over so other wild
kids could remember them when they
get old, fat, and still broke. If I kept
going, would it take me to some old
town everybody forgot to leave and how
to get back to? Maybe it’s haunted or
just full of meth cooks and raccoons.
Maybe I could move into a shanty
everyone before me has died in. My
apartment is too comfortable without
giving any comfort. I miss those days
of wind blowing through her hair.
The Dead Don’t Speak Because Their Lips Are Sewn Shut
I never dream of my father but often
of his house. He’s already dead. My mother
the ghost I’ve always known.
My brother has some scheme to not have to work
like the time he started a rice field by the Lake
to brew Budweiser knock-off beer He trained crows
to pick the grains individually without eating them
He had to learn their language They were his best friends
or the time he paved the pasture and sold parking
My sister is the only one with any sense
in my dreams. She works a panini press
in the magic kingdom. Someday a prince will order
a turkey club with a side of communication and mutual
My ex-wife believed my mother’s ghost
watched over me. I imagine her floating
above my bed wondering when I’m going
to change these sheets
But is she the wraith I knew impossibly wearing
her wedding dress or what they buried her in?
Is she the dying old lady the beauty queen
or the desiccating corpse?
Are her eyes glued shut? Her lips sewn?
She urges me not to look back.
The past is trauma we’re already well-versed in.
Look to the future devastation.
I’ve forgotten her voice. Someday, I’ll forget
my father’s my brother’s Or maybe
I’ll die before I forget.
Once the Dogs Stop Barking
There comes a point when you have
to go down to the street, point your
nose to the river, and follow its bends
home. No one will stop for you to cross.
If you walk too far, you’ll end up part
of the catfish’s mystique. If there
aren’t catfish, it’s probably the wrong
kind of river for you. Let’s be honest.
Make a list of all the things you’d cut
out of your heart, if you could, then sell
that online so you can afford a knife.
If no one wants it, substitute your under
wear. This is how you solve problems.
You can jot them as you walk. Find
a way to get past the bridges, the fences,
the gated condos with their walls. They
will absolutely call the cops if they see
you bleeding or being. Someone always
thinks they have something to say
that’s worth listening to, but they never
want to pay the ASCAP fees. They call
this a consumerist culture, but you don’t
have a choice as to who eats your corpse.
What horse shit. At the very least, you
can sell plasma, if you can get to the clinic.
It won’t make rent but you can buy food
to replenish yourself. This is the world
you and your neighbours let happen. I’m
not trying to make waves. I just want
to go home, thanks.
Maybe I was made from mud—these
days, a man won’t get much argument
saying that. The wet, sticky ball formed
in my momma’s belly after she ate bitter
graveyard dirt to loosen that man’s rope,
tugging on her heart. She had no sister
Betty to call out, “Stop! You’ll only make
it tighter by fighting.” But if they had, what
would it have mattered? She was hungry.
So she brought her step-ladder to the bone-
field, saw nothing but drunkards and teenagers,
their barrel fires smouldering in the breeze,
and climbed over. Maybe that’s why
I am the way I am, something in my skin
trying to get back to a long-dead life.
The great bank in the sky repossessed her
when I was young, so I can’t ask anyone
who could answer. Mud, ashes to taste,
a restless heart wanting to be free of obligations.
My father worked the rice fields all his life,
shovelling mud into water that carried it
away. Plenty of it found its way to his lips,
but a man doesn’t have the right spit.
CL Bledsoe - Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in Love, Grief Bacon, and his newest, The Bottle Episode, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors.
Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven
His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe
He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.