Maxwell Dahlquist is an undergraduate at the University of
Southern Indiana. He enjoys playing rugby and once rode an ostrich.

Pantoum for Family Dynamics

They lost you irrevocably when you were eight.
Listen. The doctor can do no more for your ulcer
than for the way your uncle stroked your lower back
when, unsupervised, you played in the backyard.

Listen. The doctor can do no more for your ulcer.
Your stomach digests itself like the acetylene torch
which, unsupervised, you played with in the backyard.
Your uncle was long gone then. You aged with white-hot scars.

Your brain digests itself like an acetylene torch
and you peel out of the doctor's parking lot.
Be long gone when they see the smoke and tire-scars;
they took away your license two years back

after you peeled out, drunk, from your uncle's front yard.
They all said you should let bygones be that,
and they took his teaching license five years back
after they heard the locker-room stories. Let it go,

because bygones are just that, they all said.
Hate is ice in the sidewalk cracks of broken people
and they all heard your backyard stories. Let it go.
These cracks are opening into potholes, ulcers.

Hate is ice in the sidewalk cracks of broken people
and your uncle is in bits in the V.A. hospital.
His cracks are opened into potholes, cirrhosis,
and you won't know how to navigate when he's dust.

Your uncle is in bits in the V.A. hospital.
And you, for the way he stroked your lower back
don't know how to navigate this dusty way home,
and lost yourself irrevocably when you were eight.

It Flows Through Eternities

I am with numbered days, a dinosaur
knowing my place among meteors,

to be buried firmly under gradual mud,
bones petrified, as God would

have it. Seventy million years of sediment
and aborted evolutionary branches sent

deep groans through my skeleton,
for their weight and indifference. The sun

means nothing to these abyssal climes,
and eternity can be so cold sometimes.

I am a frozen stone shadow, a toothy wraith,
awaiting my erosion with stifled breath.

In these mountains, the laziest things
are the most beautiful. Memories of snow cling

to dolomite cliffs and wind their way
through crags and faults, to evaporate

into the spring morning. Tedious work,
leaching the stone into caves that lurk

darkly under pines and bright meadows.
The cliffs are carried into the hollows

but slowly, a thousand-year march that burns
harsh peaks and arêtes into holes and caverns.

What a boring drama as this world rends
itself for us. It cycles without end,

so verbosely quiet in the hidden strata,
the dim layers of the Sierra Nevada.

We are molded, some say, from holy stuff,
the fine exuded clay from rough

stone, bludgeoned with all the blind
savagery of every force of nature. We find

that given enough time, even the hardest, most
violent things soften to life, fade to ghosts.

Saturday afternoons are quiet, even in this city,
where the wandering drone of motorcycles is pitiful

against the expanse of thunder, agelessly loud.
From my balcony I watch distant clouds

throw down curtains of cold rain that expose
bones, beat down mountains, rise up roses.

A Violent Sonnet For Destructive People

I wish you could appreciate the way
hot air rises, how in eddies and twists
smoke pools under a ceiling if you stay
long enough to see. I wish you'd come with
me, into corners of old houses and torch
them to their foundations. I'll force the locks and
you'll strike the matches, run out flushed and scorched
with the freedom of arson, hand-in-hand.
We'll follow grander, more explosive dreams,
save for propane, fertilizer, large white
windowless vans, high-powered legal teams.
We'll go together, in love and gunfights.

We'll be ashed with age, with singed and sooty lives.
We'll burn on, leading plumes of smoke into the sky.

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