Friday 15 April 2022

Five Poems by CL Bledsoe

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.   


Mud Man


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: 

His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: 

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.


1 comment:

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