Gary L. McDowell

Of Smoke

Paper cut-outs of bedroom doors—
your bedroom doors—

march down the street
or behind my eyelids or into the poem,

and in the poem

paper means lightning,
means porch lights,

means ghosts, the terrible

harmony of its wandering body

The ghost’s dreams are in my mouth
We are becalmed————We

are hulls sweating the lake

Of Oaths

For over a week now even walking’s made me tired
Finding something is losing something else

Why do people go missing

Always the one boy at the park who wanders
off, his mother asleep on a bench

Coffee grows on trees

A procession of snares and rattlesnakes,
things that hiss and jump:

cars speeding by on wet pavement,

Sing the song a Siren sings, they say,
they say, they sing

a song of people lost,

a chant of swan dives and car wrecks,
the geometry of pain

The retention pond out back drained overnight,
and now a hole, damp, tadpoles

drying in the sun

I’ve been told no before

Gary L. McDowell is the author of two books of poetry, Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral (Dream Horse Press, forthcoming) and American Amen (Dream Horse Press, 2010), winner of the 2009 Orphic Prize for Poetry. He’s also the co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press, 2010). New poems are forthcoming in Fourteen Hills, CutBank, Tupelo Quarterly, Burnside Review, and Salt Hill, among others. He is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Belmont University.