Sherwin Bitsui


I haven’t _________,

since smoke dried to salt in the lakebed,

            since crude oil dripped from his parting slogan

                        the milk’s sky behind it,

                                    birds chirping from its wig.


Strange, how they burrowed into the side of this rock.

            Strange . . . to think,

 they “belonged”

and stepped through the flowering of a future apparent in the rearview mirror,

visible from its orbit

            around a cluster of knives in the galaxy closest to the argument.


Perhaps it was September 

that did this to him,

            his hostility struck the match on hand-blown glass,

not him,

            he had nothing to do with their pulse,

when rocks swarmed over

            and blew as leaves along the knife’s edge

into summer,

            without even a harvest between their lies

                        they ignited a fire—


                                    it reached sunlight in a matter of seconds.







It is quite possible

it was the other guy

                        clammed inside my fist

 who torched the phone book

 and watched blood seep from the light socket.


Two days into leaving,

            the river’s outer frond flushes worms imagined in the fire

onto the embankment of rust,

mud deep when imagination became an asterisk in the mind.


In this hue—

earth swept to the center of the eye,

                        pulses outward from the last acre

 held to the match’s blue flame.


Mention ____________, 

and a thickening lump in the ozone layer

            will appear as a house with its lights turned off—

                                    radio waves tangled like antlers inside its oven,

because somewhere

            in the hallway nearest thirst,

                                    the water coursing through our clans

                        begins to evaporate

as it slides down our back seats—

            its wilderness boiled out of our bodies.




“Apparition” is from Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003).