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Category archive for: Heather Derr-Smith

Glass Jaw

Stand there at the lip of the pit, girl, slabs of concrete and weep holes,

your daddy called them. Eleven then and this house

would be your first house built for a purpose, the dream

of your mother assembled out of her desperate and split lives,

split lips after the fight, blood like a craving on your chin.

The house would make it right, pine beams mapping out a new territory of sane.

The house was built on Twin Springs,

subterranean creeks running through abandoned mines,

fault lines gathered on the topography like ruffles

on a child’s skirt. The shrink and swell clays sparkled with gold,

fool’s gold. I see you, hunched over the dirt to gather it up, collect

its promises in your gingham apron,

smocking pockets bloomed with blue smoke.

The past is connected to the present like a man’s arm to his shoulder,

the punch that breaks the jaw in pieces, the hit that leaves you speechless.

from ThrustFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

I-95

Rain handwritten in the leaves of the silverbell, their white trumpets,

slips of ghosts in the dark drawing in fast at my back.

Here I am in the inner courtyard, your face like a slap.

René Char said, bring the ship nearer to its longing.

      Well, I keep trying,

sneaking out the windows at seventeen and throwing myself

from airplanes over the devouring seas. It’s no use,

like a ouija board, I keep turning back up

in the place where it all began, an ideomotor effect of the fingers in the mind,

labia parted like specimen, like snarl.

The lights of the interstate sweep with wings. Oh, Otherworld, I hear your

                chatter.

I followed the edge of the highway, keeping low,

esophageal tunnel of woods, hush, hush

and I sang the whole way north and every song was a psalm to you,

the you of my future lover, the you of arrival and advent,

the you that sprang from my guts every time I was hit or kicked,

green bruises like the leaves in the boughs.

The you of my being I imagined beautiful out of the penetralia

of that molt self. Promiscuous with love,

its viscera in the cup of my mouth. Brake lights of cars like hibiscus

against the black umbilical road, a house left behind, cut off.

The cunnilingual softness of night closing in, head thrown back.

from ThrustFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

The Quarry

The cliffs rose fifty feet above the clear water,

and nestled at the bottom, fifty feet below,

were the caverns of sunken school buses.

Inside the hull the high school girls peeled off their underwear,

floating balloons of their sex, hair between their legs

like rapid-coils of a bomb in the current.

From the cliffs, the boys leapt into the sky, their voices ricocheted

and clapped against the stone in a clatter of wingbeats,

frenzied flight as they fell, or were they flying?

Those boys, half-naked

in the sunlight were like gods, are like gods now. I watch them at this distance,

their feints and side-steps

and hooks as they sparred, bare feet on the warm rock.

Some of them would still want to fuck,

but what I liked is how they seemed to me oblivious to their sex

in a way that girls weren’t allowed to be. The boys were bodies

of pure delight, a buzzing heat in the fiber and chord

of their nerves that I was barred from. No dichotomy in them,

more than lust, an inhabitation that is perfectly at home

in its leap and thrust.

At fifteen I wanted to be them. I want to be them now.

The boy of myself, leaping over the edge.

I watch them plunge down

and then rise like a bullet,

breaking back up into air, breathless as methamphetamine,

a rush of wind in the magnolias, in the locusts,

racines of white flowers and fragrance, the boys, the boys

swinging like a pendulum in the blooms

back to the beginning, the source

of abandonment, their laughing, flung joy.

Stepping into the boyhood of my girlhood

a double barreled shotgun of myself, and shot.

I said I could stiffen you in two seconds

and he said, Stiffen this.

from ThrustFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Hazel Run

I just entered you, he said. Like name it and claim it.

The preacher on the radio winds his black stole

around your eyes. Small red clots of

language between my legs. This is where the girl was found. Hot Tramp.

Down at the creek, carrying so much blood during the Battle of Wilderness,

the swollen banks burst. The children knew this history by instinct,

   war between brothers. Your body

just obeyed, crouch and clinch, the reflex against another body

in its strike.

Before the violence of adulthood was the violence of childhood

and before that a whole history of bloodshed as inheritance.

We waded in the shallow waters, the flash and stab of pyrite

and sunlight and the strike of the flint in our hands, all of it

exploded ordnance, tracers of bullets to mark a place

  deeply as only war does.

We were always injured down there in our woods, in the waters of our creek,

ankles serrated, braceleted in barbed wire, our fingers stippled

from the pincers of the crawdads we caught and released,

drops of our cells like blotches of ink on the wet pebbles,

seeping into the sparkling sand. I went back and mapped it out

with GPS. Nothing had changed. Same dogwoods, same groove of trench and

                mounds,

the ghosts of us, still barefoot in the water,

same breath-hold break-point, same drown.

from ThrustFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Catherine’s Furnace

There were diamonds in the ground beneath us

formed out of the volcanic rock, hidden in the smelting mines.

We could feel them, pulsing, pinging like radar into our prayers.

Ours was a family of seekers, pick ax and lust, searching

for a substitution, some bread and wine for what was lost.

My mother’s Jesus and Reagan, my stepfather’s beer and secretaries,

their joint quest of catharsis in lusts and fistfights, headbutt and pulled hair,

the sawdust trail of the tent revival.

I know one thing.

I was worth beating down, a pulp. Someone wanted me so damn bad,

like a desire that was desperate, hogtied.

Didn’t it feel like some kind of love, baby girl, rabbit-punched?

I found out years later, my real father hunted butterflies,

like Nabokov, the blue ones, all over North America,

aerial net in his delicate hands,

cabinets of fastened apex, thorax pinched between thumb and forefinger,

scent of napthalene.

He would spend days lost in the Paris Museum, drawers sliding open and

                shut,

rustle of pearl-bordered forewings and blue crenuled hind wings,

tiny scales on his fingers and palms in lustrous dust.

I imagined them coming in waves to the New World.

I didn’t know who my father was; he’d just gone one day

when I was very young, a throbbing in my neck, cervical vertebra burst.

Under the seraph’s beat, a deflagration of the self, burning away to suck it all in,

something never there from the beginning, irretrievable

as the dead, lingering, the way the dead do in resistance,

like the ticks we burned with a match. Or the startle

of recognition when the mockingbird sings and flies away

and then you grow weary with the song and come to know

it was just an imitation of some other beast.

What you thought was there, substantial,

was just the wind’s thickly veined limbs in the false indigo.

Nabokov said nature was a form of magic, like art.

The grub-bored holes in the moth’s wings, imitating a leaf,

   enchantment and deception, he said.

My home was No Man’s Land, perfume of magnolias in the dusk.

The prophet said, Put hot coals on your head.

Make love out of the kick and the punch.

Make beauty out of cunt, a glowing ember.

from ThrustFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Hide Out

Briefest reflection

two children’s faces in the spring,

a brother and a sister with filament hair, and beyond their heads,

a house on the hill, all of it battlefield. These two go at it

every day, shoveling the red dirt out and roofing it with plywood,

resourceful, army canteens and hatchets hooked to their belts, nails between

their teeth. Oh, how he protected her,

how he stood against their father when he freighted down the long hall,

oh how he bent his head like a shield while she cowered.

Now in the pit they’ve tunneled, in the house they’ve rooted out,

he digs his fingers in her. He’s strong,

made for coming like a second coming. She’s

made for taking it, taking all of the earth into her body.

In a year, her brother runs away across the country

   back to Texas, no more war.

Back at the house, the walls ache. The doors of the rooms barred shut.

Their father’s footsteps rattle the threshold, shotguns

leaning against the bedframe, loaded and cocked.

She still snuck into the woods at night after her brother had gone

to the covering their own hands built,

where they once leaned against each other in the dark, the whippoorwill’s

                 song

balled and trilling in the fists of their hearts.

from ThrustFind Heather Derr-Smith’s work in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2016
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

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