Matthew Gavin Frank is the author of the nonfiction books, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food, Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, Pot Farm, and Barolo; the poetry books, The Morrow Plots, Warranty in Zulu, and Sagittarius Agitprop, and two chapbooks. He teaches at Northern Michigan University, where he is the Nonfiction/Hybrids Editor of Passages North. He persevered through this past winter via the occasional one-handed cartwheel in his mind.
She picks the olives too early and, mouth-
to-mouth, feeds the pits to the cardinal.
Inside, on the TV, the unemployment rate
rises like her penultimate welt. Both bell-
shaped. An apron falls to the floor. I’m telling you:
my hands are still bandaged. It couldn’t have been me
who did the untying. Still, the bird—a miracle—
turns blue. The girl pecks and pecks, her mouth
confused between resuscitation and honeybee.
The olives are barely white.
In my mind, my
fingers are soft and working, and I am holding
her breasts, though she claims to feel only
raw gauze, tries now to revive the bird
with her lashes. A furious blinking. A heart
attack in a Ball jar. The bird in the harmonica
case sounds like the landlord at the door.
The TV, she tells me, is a picture window,
the field where the crows go to die. Her
mother, freshly distraught, in a mockery
of breakfast—all hunger—breaks an egg
against the screen.
At the exit, the shirtless boy sells baboon hands—Companion or ashtray. Pillowcases of hay and overripe guavas. The sugar has settled to the bottom of his ginger beer, and the flies make vests—no—vestments of themselves. In the graveyard behind him, the congregants light a bouquet of roses on fire. In the rising smoke, some outtake of the Bible—no—testament to the Taser, the Cayuga stick, shelduck, terrible dust devil dozen, the stillborn infant who still has all that cottony fluid on her lips, the fern, the sorts of flies who have stopped investing in themselves, the reaching hands that won’t—even with all that rope—stop shaking with—no—praying for ash.
Atheist Eyes in the Tomato Plants
The woman with the atheist eyes
squats low into the tomato plants,
argues with the nature of everything
heirloom, the Early Girl is late
and the Green Zebra is really
just a made-up alien-horse. The Abe
Lincoln, born in Illinois in 1923,
is falling prey to the insects
and again will not clot. The woman
is happy that it’s the weekend.
And geckos ride across the pond
on the backs of goldfish, at least
100 geckos, and the new mothers
and the new fathers splash before
them, in bathing suits the colors
of old cars. Don’t follow me, I say.
I don’t want us to drink through
all the lemonade and emerge
onto very green lawns. This
is not a continent, or even a state.
Dogs, shaved for summer, dog
into the earth. Beneath them,
the woman rolls with the buried
seeds, the ones from last season,
not a single one of which belonged
to an orange. The belly of some
cosmic invisible Orange hides
its light, and from that light,
the grasses of the earth lift
themselves up, blade by blade
toward the blind faith
of our hands.