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