Jeffrey Bean is Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing at Central Michigan University. His poems have appeared in the journals FIELD, The Antioch Review, Gargoyle, Juked, Puerto del Sol, Salt Hill, and Smartish Pace, among others. His first collection, Diminished Fifth, was published by David Robert Books (Word Tech) in 2009, and his chapbook, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, won the 2013 Vern
Cowles/Copperdome Poetry Chapbook Prize and was published last year by Southeast Missouri State University Press. He can be found online at jeffreybeanpoet.com.
Kid, you have hands,
use every part of them to feel
the horsemint. Let’s compare
wonderful/full of wonder
mine is full of wonder
but crushed a little
around the eyes.
This is where we live.
You can smell coffee
through the window screens,
hear living people clinking spoons
if you’re up
at the pink hour.
at the pioneer village
that huge waterwheel
turned above us, crushed corn
while lookers-on watched
videos about corn facts
on their phone-screens?
How the sunscreen
I spread on your face
smelled like a field
That white butterfly agreed,
tasted your eye
with its feet.
In the gift shop, a white horse
eyed you, and you said you knew
it wanted to take you home.
When I dream of horses
I never think
to climb up and ride them.
But you and I will drive
interstates so long
and fast those roads
in our minds will turn
into fat gray horses of light.
And when you grow up please
remember to keep smelling your hair,
keep loving the crunch
of snow and lettuce.
The coffee-ground smell
of true horses.
Remember to take me
to the last aisle
of the farthest gift shop,
everything you want.
Kid, this is school,
you learn not to cut up your hand
when you cut out a pink paper bird
the shape of your hand. You learn
to push your face into red Play-Doh
till your face looks up at you from the worktable
and you carry it home. I before E except
after C and vowels and sometimes Y your red
face learns to say. Except neighbor and weigh.
When I was in school I walked through snow
uphill with Albert Einstein. Albert
was a worried student. During storms,
he would run beside lightning bolts at just
the right speed and shout, SEE? SEE?
I never figured out what he meant. I ran,
though, through my share of thunder. Later,
Arnold Schwarzenegger joined my fifth grade class,
he riddled our chalkboard with Uzi rounds.
I hardly noticed because like always
I was following the action of the clouds
and trees. A lightning bug named Roger lived
in my desk, he needed comforting. I hummed.
In the cafeteria, graham crackers were lifeboats,
skateboards, castle walls. The gravy: the moat.
In gym I sweated and cried my way up ropes
while hairy older kids laughed and threw grapes. I hope
you check in more often than I did, I hope the shapes
in atlases stand up like colorful deer
in your head when someone says Ecuador,
Alaska, Pakistan. I know you won’t imagine hammers
falling on the spines of your enemies, or hatch plots
to poison villain-versions of your teacher. Instead
you’ll tune your recorder impeccably, fall asleep smiling
on a C Major triad, your uncut hands lit up with pastels.