Eric Schwerer

My t-shirt read,

“He Is The Rock Upon Which I Stand.”

Upon which was Christ’s fist risen and grave-fresh,

out, clenched, a length of barbed-wire

entwiningly snaking from his arm to his palm,

my god, muscle-sweetened, peppered with pricks

—as if shot had b-b-dotted it, it bled.


not Christian metal, the neighbors’ kid’s shirt read Butcherhead.

Much different than Crown of Thorns,

that summer, Black Flag, Black Kiss.

I’d moved to a bad neighborhood and learned

his name, heard of but never heard the band

on his tight t-shirt—seventh grade—fading as if scrubbed

then hung on a line to dry then stiffen

in the sun maybe thirteen times—. For that grey summer

I knew him I played in both love and fear

he’d turn into a dick who

thought I was some kind of queer.



Holiness, Naz’rene} ] ) —her hands glistened. Her wet

It’s not hard: you squeeze them by the chest, let

her crack their heads with a hammer, grip

the loose skin while she opens their necks,

hang them from their cocked back legs and let

them bleed. The rest is making lines,

knifing off the coats, plopping the glazy guts

into a five gallon bucket, gluey rabbit-stink

sticking in your throat. The butchering done, Margaret’s mom’d

send us to the barn, the hogs’ pen

where Margaret flung the guts to the boar . . .

In that biology of dim air, her hands

(Margaret was part Indian,

red haired, soft, thin

[whatever her mother

was, was something different

{Hardshell Baptist,

Holiness, Naz’rene} ] )

—her hands glistened.

Her wet

skin a skin I needed to have to want me.



How do you drown five children?

You start with your

oldest. Unless he somehow understands, then you

begin with your second, make the first one

help you hold him down in the porcelain tub.

Or is it possible you kill the youngest first

by accident while giving her a bath? Or the youngest

are twins, unplanned, the others

outside on the swings as in your grief you

dry both off, put them, cold skin, to sleep. Then

through your bedroom screen call Jonathan, who’s

three, and doesn’t complain that you haven’t drained

the water since the twins. The struggle’s no more

than holding something inflatable under

at the swimming pool. Still the problem remains:

your oldest will wonder where the others are.

Yes, start with him, he’s summer-hot and itching.



The Lonesome Pine

The Lonesome Pine Drive-In didn’t have much

bottomland, so they cut what they could from the mountain


and people would park along the highway, walk down

to the edge of the evergreens. And instead of fooling


with sound boxes, they rigged speakers to the screen.

On clear nights, she said, the sound of music


‘n’ sirens ‘n’ guns’d carry right to our porch. We

lived just a mile further up in the woods. See,


by the time I’s thirteen I’d worn a path right to where

folks set in the dirt on blankets they’d brought ‘n’ sneak


among them ‘n’ watch whatever they showed—

Star Tracks, Indian Joe, some freak with claws killin’ a college girl,


takin’ off her clothes—. Then she’d get up,

brush off her skirt, and run home.



Who got the dog to salivate

not through memory but with penury,

hunger, and pain? Was he German? What was his name?


Life alone offers many tests

which draw out the lunatic, the dull, the dumb.

They aren’t scientific and, mercifully,

don’t often last very long.

A man hits his own head

over the course of several months: he makes a fist,

pounds his temple,

employs the blunt hammer one creates

by striking with a work-fat first finger and thumb.


And although his dad had shown him once

how the mind and body were such

that a man couldn’t hurt himself with his own punch,

his brain recoils, he cowers from himself,

he’s taught himself to flinch.[/responsive_text]



After working as a carpenter in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Ohio, Eric Schwerer earned a PhD from Ohio University. He has taught poetry to people recovering from mental illness and now teach poetry, playwriting, and other subjects at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. Of late, he’s also been volunteering and teaching study abroad classes in Ecuador and Tanzania.

GestureEric Schwerer