Skip to content →

Author: Rob Thornton

From a Mouth in California (Daylight Savings Version)

Today my morning run felt awful until I was almost finished, and

this is also the sentence in which I admit that I never once consid-

ered going any farther.

Later, when asked to participate in a thought experiment regarding

preferences for my own demise, I chose a cause of death that in-

volves neither panic nor pain, though this may well mean both have

set in.

I’ll say this much: right now I’m pulling apart a tangerine, and

wherever and whatever these clouds were before they were here

feels irrelevant in light of my having only now realized that I’d ex-

pected something better from the sky.

That, and I’d like more from this minor wind and the leaves it acti-

vates, two sounds that seem to just catch in me briefly and die.

I let my face come open at jokes.

I let my pulse bump me slowly into sleep.

Sometimes I dream I’m playing a video game based on a movie in

which I’ve been chased.

Hurry down, function—there’s still sun on me.

Pain or panic I believe in I can taste.

from To AnacreonFind more by Graham Foust at the library

Copyright © Graham Foust
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

Thinking of Eurydice at Midnight

My Siamese cat’s left a brown

snake, its back broken, on my desk.

The underground throbs outside my window.

The black highway of the river’s crinkled by a light

westerly blowing down. I want to give praise

to the coming winter, but problems

of belief flare and buckle under

the lumpy syntax. The unelected

President’s on the radio again,

laying waste to the world.

Faith—that old lie. I drag up

impossible meanings and double divisions

of love and betrayal, light and dark.

Where on earth am I after all these years?

A possum eats crusts on the verandah,

standing up on its hind legs.

My weakness can’t be measured.

My head contains thousands of images—

slimy mackerel splashing about in the murk.

My failures slip through fingers pointed

at the best night of my life. This one.

The cold mist falls, my head floats in a stream

of thinking. Eurydice. Did I fumble? Maybe

I was meant to be the moon’s reflection

and sing darkness like the nightjar. Why

wouldn’t I infest this place, where the

sun shines on settlers and their heirs

and these heirlooms I weave

from their blond silk?

from The Goldfinches of BaghdadFind more by Robert Adamson at the library

Copyright © 2006 Robert Adamson
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

From a Mouth in California

Shorts and a t-shirt. Not even

nothing’s bitten into you.

And to think they call this lack

of shrapnel “fall.”

Last night was all corners; this morning

sports a fumbled-up glow.

With your marrowy kilter, you’ve

believed into this weather, grown

to hate some certain turns and times

of day, but you’re mostly okay:

a more plausible me, a less

unthinkable pile of holes.

Watch the world and it’ll crack.

You’ll see star dirt, sure, but let the sun

not be a lesson. There’s a bruise at the end

of the light still hurts from way back.

There’s this disease runs from “quit-

to-keep-staying” to “pressed-

for-safekeeping” and yes,

you can recycle it.

The people bells are different from

the God bells, but how?

The hell’s a ghost before it gets to us?

You are only not thinking out loud now.

from A Mouth in CaliforniaFind more by Graham Foust at the library

Copyright © 2009 Graham Foust
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

Two Rivers

after Lawrence Langer

When the woman facing the video camera speaks

decades after having been freed

from whichever death camp she’d been dumped in

about how life is for her now,

it’s clear she was never freed, not really,

two rivers running through her,

one roaring, drowning out the other

which nevertheless keeps going

barely preserving

societal norms, those

kindnesses, considerations,

thinking of others, the future of the state.

But the louder river’s stronger. It erodes its bed,

pulls like a muscled eel against the line

because she couldn’t turn her back on what she’d had to do to

not die, the slightest seam left in the water

for so short a time!—like a breath.

Me? I’d have sunk

so readily into the murk

as into one who’d have killed me for a dime. And I did

sink, gave

everything for nothing.

Why can’t I say

what it hurts to know about the self?

—while she can’t not

say it, staring straight into the eye of the lens:

“Love leaves me cold.”

from Skeleton CoastFind more by Elizabeth Arnold at the library

Copyright © Elizabeth Arnold
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

Near Nod

When I was the age of three in the sultry heat the weeds were blos-

soming and I looked off to the east. Cut from stone, my hand

strained for the wall. Long ridges of corrugated steel shot past,

moving south to north. And there stood a man upon whom the sun

had descended. Later my hand grew fluent of speech, and ap-

proached me, quiet and unpretending, laid out on the earth to dry.

from WatchwordFind more by William Fuller at the library

Copyright © William Fuller
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

I Followed, I Found, I Went Down

into the depths of another

Having little warmth

I waited with him

seized by the ceaseless

suspension of time

And my fury

It upheld me

Dry leaves wither

Autumn is fading

Scanning the sky

he stands among trees

I listen to silence

an uneasy peacefulness

I uncover his trail

what is really there

Searching and waiting

I keep close to him—

He tries to see

at the edges of things

A stranger, possessed

My heart is transfigured

He is the hawk

He is the ten-mile walk

and I follow his fear

He is alone

He is the insatiable eye

the sky flows out of

to keep the birds near

from The Larger NatureFind more by Pam Rehm at the library

Copyright © Pam Rehm
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

Inner Voice

Getting old,

living alone, I still

talk too much but to myself.

I talk my way through

procedures like

carrying books downstairs.

The monologue’s so stupid

I do it in farting Mockney

or worse, mincing

Estuarian: none of it worth

the touch of my own Standard Midland.

from Selected PoemsFind more by Roy Fisher at the library

Copyright © Roy Fisher
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

Winter (Mirror)

for Joe Brainard

When the windows

are silent and

thin as language,

snow falls into

rifts and valleys.

Everything changes,

even the trees

cease their breathing

in the smooth

night air. The

one world shines.

As a hand

draws aside its

exponential curtain,

the only no

spoken the length

of the sequence

knows its mind.

The temper of

water waiting for

its shape in

the unrelenting

rush of things

in their freezing.

The vacant shuttle

returning to earth,

its voices heard

on last year’s

tapes, these signs

also lurching out

to history, where

the unnerved god

sleeps on its back.

In that secret

place, one simple

branch strict with

attention lashes at

your eye. Thank

appetite for heaven

and also the

singing’s late green

leaves, thin in

the flurry, where

the deepest houses

sink and bright

smoke rises. Not

this and not

that, not even

winter asking what

you’re after on

a brief afternoon,

which of course

is pale in

cold porch light.

To be without

speech the solitary

staging: a touch

after dying or

breath in its

harness turning and

turning. There is

nothing the sun

cannot explain,

nothing too clear

for ice of

mind steeped in

its season like

body and desire,

tree and belief.

from Winter (Mirror)Find more by Paul Hoover at the library

Copyright © Paul Hoover
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

Listening to Cuckoos

Two unchanging notes; to us, words—always those high

elongated notes. Red-eyed koels with feathered earmuffs,

downward-ending notes that pour through a falling of night

coming over the distances, words that don’t change.

The two notes remain, a split phrase, two words

meaning, not exactly a self—not quite, the first day of spring.

The moment of utterance, candour becomes

the piercing, whistled syllables. Penetrating the dark green

of twilight, the storm birds call, two notes, two words,

and cackle in the broken-egged dawn, in the echoing light.

from Net NeedleFind more by Robert Adamson at the library

Copyright © 2015 Robert Adamson
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.