Back to Issue Fourteen.

becoming the boy



First, let me admit I am a counterfeit.
A sleek composite. The fourth
meal of the day is paraphernalia.
Which is another way to say, I learned
how to man, and I worry
when I’m not careful, I drown out
the seven parts of me
with one abominable baritone. Should
sounds so much like shove,
doesn’t it? It gutters the cold rain
and dumps it on your head.
The soil grows whatever it’s fed.
Everything entering the ear takes root.
And speaking of dirt, think
of the dandelion weed—those
little puffs blundering the backyard.
Their furry spray lifting to flight.
All it takes is a weak fiasco of wind.
But first, the bulb must bloom yellow—
and pretty even—from a knot
as tight as solitude. And still it scatters
like a fist of warm dice. You too
began curled and cooed awake,
then some blue lung began to chant
a boy should this and a boy should that,
and you shouldn’t listen, little
corn-shuck, it’s a strange song,
mostly sad and hard to dance to.



dead man float



was a game, was the back
humped and limb stiff hover
until something inside the body
said enough. Then it was time
to watch. To count aloud
what might be the last
seconds of living. His body,
underwater, blurred.
In the distance, the ocean
flattened like a lifeline.
There was an unspoken rule
not to help. To need help
was a weakness. We were boys.
It was a game we thought
we made ourselves.

Keith Leonard’s first collection of poems, Ramshackle Ode, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2016. He is also the author of a chapbook, Still, the Shore, published by YesYes Books.

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