by C. Porterfield                    


1. Decision Day


Now the morning was gilded around the edges

with the shavings of bones

that were pressed and glued around the corners

and carved like soapstone

It was gloriously grey-

the sun a radiant underlay

fighting, fading, winning, waning,

purring behind milk and cloud and snow


now the blinds are up a foot from the bottom

I make out outlines of ankles, legs and asses

A fresh set sends blood to my ears

as the memories flood the levy of my boredom

and the final sinewy strand has been cut clean through-

there is a pop, a crack, and a thud

and you are free and I am free now

to extricate ourselves from the mud


So you practiced your name

in the margins of pages

of a hundred thousand rough drafts

I heard they roughed you up pretty bad

You got to climb up the mountaintop and scream out loud

and chip your teeth on a bottletop and do me proud

When I held your hands in my blood-free hands

I swear they were the cleanest ones in town


take your time and let the tide pull you out to sea

take your time and let the tide pull you away from me


2. Home (Leave the Lights On)


cold snapped like a coiled spring;

you can feel the frost is coming on

we are marigolden-- dropping orange and umber,

just barely holding on

and now downtown’s dolled up with tinsel and angels

seasons sneaking up like haircuts, teased and tangeld

we were fraying for a while, but we took it all down

like the garland falling off traffic signals

but leave the lights on

cause it might be nighttime when I get there

but I’m on my way home


putting on old clothes in a new way

putting on the pose of a new stage

waking up everyday just a little bit changed

while it breaks over us like waves

long live beauty; short live pain

lust for wonder and hunger pangs

face your fear, but not your shame:

it doesn’t end; it just wears away

but leave the lights on

cause it might be nighttime when I get there

but I’m on my way home


I’ve been clawing away at what’s underneath:

closer than solid ground beneath your feet

closer, even now, than lips and teeth

closer now, then out of reach

but the body remembers what the mind forgets:

archives every heartbreak, every cigarette

these reset bones? they might not hold,

but they might yet

leave the lights on

cause it might be nighttime when I get there

but I’m on my way home


3. Pale Rider


there’s a pale horse outside my door

in my dream, where my Dream Horse usually goes

it told me its name; it’s the same as yours

I’ve been so worried about you

because there’s something inside you been clouding your head

like a mother, and expecting to be soon again,

but the thing inside you is not your kin;

it’s a ghost you let keep haunting


I don’t know that I can be your place to go, or what you need


now the next thing I know, I’m on your back

with a suitcase full of the wrong things packed

we’re out looking for your family but doubling back

to every bar we chose to pass on

now you’re cantering crooked and screaming at the wind

and shooting off flare guns in memory of the kid

his birthday was yesterday; he would have been six

oh my god, I am so sorry


I don’t know that I can be your place to go, or what you need


4. Cups and Cups


I got a love that brings me home; got no need to terraform

tried to guide by the stars but I took it too far--

to the river that the ancient icesheets borne

I came to with fruitflesh in my teeth; skin stuck in my front teeth

and the scales dropped off as the sun came up and I knew that I

could never go back to not knowing I was nude

in my jacket and and my pants and my boots

all my love was dammed up here to you


with my nose pressed into your hair I could smell with seven senses

danger, preservation in the air

and I got four kinds of love but the one I’m thinking of is all four

directions, here and there

and my bones cried out from sleeping on the ground,

partly in your arms from behind

you said there’s an underground river that can go anywhere,

it’s just where we choose to dig in and what we find

all my love was dammed up here to you

all my love was dammed up here to you


so I followed the river underground and drank it up:

cups and cups, and pocketed some

I’m always drunk, on the verge of spilling everything,

filled up like a pleurisied lung

Wash away the trail-- wonder what we left behind?

the extra cups and cups and cups

You could read me like a horse, with your legs and eyes;

I got spooked and bucked


When I’m pulling away I will say I feel you pulling away

all my love was dammed up to today


If I stayed would you stay with me right here?


5. Ambrosia


Looking for the Win-Win in all this wishful drinking

got me thinking that I ought to pray in wordless groans

and be fed ambrosia by the doves

but they’d hold me to what I said once;

years or hours ago, I can’t be trusted- only thrown

I keep spinning my wheels

maybe nothings gonna change


I keep dreaming about the sheriff's kid who I used to chew Skoal with

he was cruel to the other kids just for fun

I always sought them out later on, but I never had the stones to tell him off

he died alone years ago on a golf course with a gun

and I’m here spinning my wheels

maybe nothings gonna change


Time was, I could stand up straight, but I lost my balance with the ballast weight

cast over the gunwales, overboard

I got nothing left to push up against but this imaginary resonance

starting at a spot on the opposite shore

and despite our sins we would not sink; we were

buoyed by some brackish grace

our mouths like an ocean drink, we salt-shone in the sun

and the grackles learned the car alarms

keeping all the neighbors warned

and lovers armed

I do believe we’re going down.


6. Wings


hollow as a bird bone in a broken wing

weighted to the earth with nothing left to sing

just rasping for your mother, coughing up gravel

waiting on a brother who was cleared for travel


get these rocks out of my mouth


the air begins to change like the

current over the wings of a Dreamliner

over the sea

the captain, he was up all night

talking with the ghosts and

singing with the angels til they

touched his lips with coals


get these rocks out of my mouth


soaring close to God until his

love melts my wings and the


of space

smells like paraffin and gasoline and

color coded cash and coins

the currency of dreams

I’m all out of money babe

it’s as dire as it seems

get these rocks out of my mouth


7. Marigolden


I left Nebraska in my summer dress;

left him behind there to straighten out his head

Jane was working for the airline and she bumped me up to business

she feels the thrill of every liftoff in her heart and chest

She smelled like saffron and glowed gold and rust

years ago, I loved Jane Harmony once

but the fall fell from August and the petals all dropped off

we’re always finding old lives to run away from


and I started to believe it


30,000 feet: I am seated by a surgeon,

said he fixed the dicks of Shahs’ sons who want to be western.

Jane caught me roll my eyes, and we made up constellations

of unicorns with Roman candle horn approximations


and I started to believe it


the voice of God came on, cautioning the wind

Jane strapped in and looked into my eyes

I watched us fall breathless,

cascading over nothing

I was feeling marigolden,

gliding to the ground

and I started to believe it


8. Michelle


oh Michelle, I’m coming down to see you

tonight is bruise-black swelling golden green

I was in bed but I had the dream again

where I drive us off the cliff to the ravine

and the car was Shelby blue

blue like the one in the photo of your father and you

blue like the label on the beer you always choose

blue like you and me Michelle


oh Michelle, I went looking for the river

but I only made it to the railroad bed

there were candles there and some days-ago cut flowers

for the guy who had been knifed there by his friend

and my eyes could not adjust to the flames against the leaves

someone was watching from nearby

I heard a phone chime from shallow in the trees

I had to come see you Michelle


oh Michelle, we are trafficking in wonder,

worshiping the wounds upon your cheek

kiss me shy and I will love you like a lamprey

in the cool cool water in the creek

tornadoes transform and leave us changed

and everyone we know will break on us like waves

take your hands and cover up your eyes and your face

tell me what you see now Michelle


oh Michelle, first light might come too late

let’s outdrive the headlights and the stars

and the roof held, but only til the rain fell;

now it’s leaking love inside my captain’s car

I tossed my chevrons out the window on the way over here

Uncle Sam can meet me by the treeline

he and I and your husband we can work it out like men

but we won’t end up eye to eye


oh Michelle, I can’t say the things that I’ve seen

from the time that I was gone and then returned

but I got five thousand bucks, a full tank of gas,

and a stars and stripes beach towel with a cigarette burn

If we leave right now we’ll be there by morning

there being anywhere but here

we can make a new start; we can make up new names

I’ve already picked yours, Michelle.


9. Summons


over the water outside of Mobile

allowing the sunset to take her time

I’ve been putting off the knowing in a

pink and orange haze while the

oil rigs are feeding me lines

and the pines, straight and tall, fly past, looking out on a

hundred mile barcode or prison bars

and I’m whispering the Lord’s prayer over

every bridge I go across

try to summon up the strength not to

swerve into the cars


I’ll be coming home to you


drunk hotel halogen bathroom mirror

gonna conjure up the courage to call up a ghost

I’ve been picking at the cancer;

smear it on my chest over my heart

like a salve where it burns us the most


I’ll be coming home to you


did you fall in love again while I’ve been away?

in my dreams I’m in another man’s clothes

I got all these friends in Durham but I never know their names

If I had to, I could probably make it home

I’ve been two weeks dry, in a bar every night

I’ve been pissing coffee, quinine and lime

and the fog’s been lifting; I’m doing alright

i still can’t look nobody in the eye


10. Enchantment


Easter morning in New Mexico:

the Son is risen on another day

blasting grace on telephone poles;

rows of crosses, rows of trebuchets

Cashed in my thirty day chip for a kiss

in an air-conditioned bar in Truth or Consequences

with a gameshow on, the stakes high enough to risk;

it didn’t taste like I remembered it


chasing sundogs to believe; I miss you more than tongues miss pulled teeth


i drove four hours north, with one eye closed

to El Santuario de Chimayo

for a handful of dirt or a final roll;

my friend from back home said I should go.

The tourists packed in but no one talked

and by the looks of it, everyone could walk

so I swiped a crutch that was leaning against the wall

that the Padres have the maintenance guy keep stocked


chasing sundogs to believe; I miss you more than tongues miss pulled teeth


now it’s growing wide around us, this feeling in these bones

as we shoot the wind with rifles and then bludgeon it with stones

the Lord came in the wind and the dirt--

where he sometimes can be found if you

squint; soften it to silhouettes--

His tessellated love is all around