F. Daniel Rzicznek's books of poetry are Settlers (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press),
Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press) and Neck of the World (Utah
State University Press), and he is coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to
Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice
(Rose Metal Press).
Recent poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, West Branch, Blackbird, Colorado
, and Notre Dame Review. He teaches writing and directs the Creative Writing
program at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio (USA).

from Leafmold

Socially I am a dullard. I was never good at it and gave up years ago. Echo, echo. Frank Stanford is suddenly here in the Michigan afternoon sunlight, asking us to press our bellies to the hardwood, to be silent, still. Ten families run our town and to do anything serious you cannot avoid them. When I step barefoot into dirty water, ghosts and bugs embrace my feet. Gods in their failings aid us best. How is it that her anger stokes a fire in his heart? To make a game of mercy, a joke out of mystery. Down beneath the mirrored dragon's feet, a pile of violated microwaves. Another form of energy, another holy chemical. The world is running out of heads and noses, on its way to the smallest and most ignorable currencies of forgiveness. The ear knows the house next door from the one across the street, a sense stretching like fractal vegetation to its limits. The dog can go further, his near-sightedness a lone flaw. Talk about flipping out. A part of a part of home: the future and all of its shelves and closets filled with your ephemera and clothes, however many shoes. Some from France. Some not.

Mayflies so thick they collide in the air that minutes before was stacked full with rain. The stout is bitter and cool and goes back centuries into my stomach until soon the nerves of the face are glowing but still darkening, still receding with the day. And what are maggots, really, but hungry children? I have returned here after three years to take something out, to leave this for you. Just on the edge of sight, a black and white dog is barking his head off. Avarice: a slim wing of the sun's ascent touched a cloud and the cloud backed away. White dots of fertilizer on black soil, and yes, within the frame: a two-dimensional likeness of the Milky Way as seen from the Cuyahoga River. My only loss has been invisibility—now even the stages of grief cannot begin. Standing in the garden, you think you will die young. But how can you know? The field, as always, stretched west and ended where the woods rose up.

The blue emergency phones call out to me. The overly formal cowgirls with their leather fringe and feathered manes wail in my ear like high school hockey coaches on a bender. Tired enough to melt against the stone floor, an old, long-dead dog grumbles "why not some comfort around here?" and yes, I hear him. Howe Gelb strums and sings to me through my white, off-brand ear buds. My boots make an exploding sound in this sound-fog, breaking each disc of the god's back evenly in half, spine built of wafers broken on the teeth of sound. Now elephant ivories squeal in the library's basement of mutilations. I tell the murderers I cannot live without them. I cannot stop my hearing of things in light of what they can never become. The cowgirls all have the same unbelievably gorgeous eyes. They form lines, anticipating the routine. Fake elephants capsized by fake guns at the edge of the chipped and swollen wild. Whenever I am introduced to a stranger, I pull out a firecracker and light it. Dance! I yell.

Soon the threadbare holiday will last all year—an inescapable static that will come to be considered silence. A man with one working kidney slides a log into his fire and mumbles to a half moon muscling through the haze. An eye for a marble, an arm for a hook, a heart for a circuit, a pan full of teeth fresh from the river. Be always aware of who you are, the day of the week and the season, this inextricable shirt of self you wear. Coyote has the reddest smile tonight. It's always time to leave, time to ride. As Election Day draws closer, they feel the purple hairs growing on their brains. Electricity astounds doctors even now. How do we look? I continue to know nothing of my students. They teach me fathom and blank. They reveal the featherless bird for what it is: the idea that turns without spokes, the smoked hams tossed to the waves to lessen the culture's inane weight. Up in the middle of the night listening to rain in the new house, I am aware of only my awareness, however dull and fleeting it is, conjuring a time before roofs, before wheels, and filling it with the talk of gulls.

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