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Category archive for: Patrick Rosal

Evidence: 1A, Item 1

To those who plead Not guilty I say: a poem

is a field. Exhibit #1: I haven’t said a thing

about my hand in murder. I repeat: a poem

is a field. And inside this particular field a man

yells “Hee!” to urge a bull toward the border

between the unpaved earth and the road.

When the bull reaches the end of the field,

the animal turns. The man, my uncle, gets up

early to start the work and finish by noon

then polish off a bottle of rum at a card game

with his boys. But first, at some point, the bull

will get tired and my uncle will hitch a second

bull to the plow. The poem is a field. What enters

the field enters the poem—the man, my uncle,

his several beasts, the plow. But then a boy,

my cousin, comes running to tell my uncle

a man is dead. The bull stops working. A man,

a bull, a boy are standing in the middle of a field

and what’s entered is the news of a murder.

The boy won’t bring the name of the shooter

though he knows who he is and who paid him.

The man, my uncle, looks out at the hills then

at the boy who brought the news and who is

weeping now. If I think I’m not guilty then

how come you still don’t know where I stand.

The ditch is in the field. So is the road. My uncle

yokes a third bull and moves on. In lecture halls,

I was taught I can make a field appear. I was told

to erase myself from the field. And then, just

outside my family’s smoky village, I entered

a real field with hip-high cogon grass. I followed

my uncle and cousin who slashed a path. I carried

a real bucket and a real blade and three children

hurried behind me. They called this field holy

because it belongs both to the newly murdered

and the decades-long dead. If you’ve chosen

to erase yourself from slate, I already know

where you stand. I was taught to sweep the crypts

of our beloveds then kneel at their stones to rinse

their death dates with fresh water and scrape

with a knife the contours of each letter etched

in granite until our family’s name came clean.

from Brooklyn AntediluvianFind it in the library

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

The King Won’t Kill Me

today. He’s cleared the court, torn up

the last treaty, trounced the villages

bordering the empire’s southernmost

state, rounded up their dark denizens

and given the hundred skinniest to split

among his governors. I wore shackles

once on a boat across the largest ocean

in the universe, but I was the last among

my captive people to forget how to laugh

and the first to remember our tribal names.

In that time, I learned the whipman’s slang,

for when the noble children came to gawk,

I’d listen to them, mimic, until I could

speak back, ask questions, chat them up

for fairy tales, prayers, ridicule, and lies.

Dumb luck, one runt traded me a book

for my right thumb through the bars

of my cage. In no time, I learned to read

all the secrets of their God. Then,

Minor Governor caught me making

a small group of children dance

to my crafted blasphemies, damning us all.

He had me dragged before the King.

His Majesty asked me why I believed

I’d been brought before him, so I called to mind

a passage I memorized from their holy book

about a pale man’s rib and sang it in the melody

with which my mother used to bid farewell

to summer every year. The King sneered first,

then held his big belly and laughed. Take him

away. Take him—away. I thought, for sure,

it was my death, but it’s been 11 years

and the King no longer goes to church

on Sundays, he beckons me to court instead

to make him laugh and sometimes weep.

He calls me Nearer, my pumpkin, nearer

then caresses my cheek. Some afternoons

I’m cuddled so close to him I’m sure I could

slip from his fat knuckle one of his big bright

ruby rings. He kisses me from my right elbow

down to each of my four fingers’ tips. I tell him

how his darling left hand is so chubby sweet

and I vow, one day, to take the whole

goddamned thing in his sleep.

from Brooklyn AntediluvianFind it in the library

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

You Cannot Go to the God You Love With Your Two Legs

And because you’re not an antelope or a dog

you think you can’t drop your other two limbs down

and charge toward the Eternal Heart.

But you must fall in love so deeply, those other legs

are yours too, the ones that have hauled their strange body

through a city of millions in less than a day

at its own pace, in its own pain,

and because you cannot make the pace of the one whom you love

your own and because you cannot make the pain of the one you love

your own pain, your separate aches must meet somewhere

poised in the heaven between your bodies

the skylines turned on their sides

reminders of what once was, what every man and woman

must build upon, build from, the body, the miserable,

weeping body, the deep bony awkwardness of love

in the bed. If you’ve kissed bricks in secret

or fallen asleep where there was no bed or spent time

lighting a fire, then you know the beginning of love

and maybe you know the end of it and maybe you know

the far ends, the doors, where loved ones enter

to check on you. It’s not someone else speaking

when you hear I love you. It’s only the nighttime

pouring into the breast’s day. Sunset, love. The thousand

exits. The thousand ways to know your elbow

from your ass. A simple dozen troubled hunters

laying all their guns down, that one day

they may be among the first to step

into your devastated rooms

and say Enough now, enough.

from Brooklyn AntediluvianFind it in the library

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

Ode to Eating a Pomegranate in Brooklyn

When I fall in love again I will have another heart

and a second set of eyes which is one way

to watch the woman you love  grow old

The story of my heartbreak started like this:

someone gave me a key that opens many doors

I traded it for a key that opens only one

I traded that one for another and that for another

until there were no more doors

and I had a fist full of keys

At any given moment only part of the world is gruesome

There are three pomegranates in the fridge

waiting to be broken open

When I fall in love again

my beloved and I will spit seeds into the street

until the birds come to pluck them

When I fall in love I’ll count the tick

of little pits in city puddles

I’ll forget the dead

and count the doors instead

from Brooklyn AntediluvianFind it in the library

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

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.