Back to Issue Fourteen.




Today is a new year and winter
and there are so many things
I’m ready to think about.

Like that it’s morning
and the power plant
is a womb for clouds.

The clouds aren’t real
because no matter
how hard I look I see

only clouds in them, not rabbits
or a pirate ship or hands.
The sliding glass door

before me should be cold
if I touch it but it won’t be
because I can’t feel anything anymore

after flooding my body
too many times
with an army of synthetic soldiers.

I know now this isn’t
a solution. I now know
so much more. I know

that last night five thousand
blackbirds dropped dead
over an Arkansas suburb

and it wasn’t my fault.
I’ve only ever killed a robin
and I’ve never been to Arkansas.

This year I won’t feel
responsible. Last night
I was out on the deck

watching fireworks chew
through the air, flocks
of green and gold that showered

back to earth. Last night
in Arkansas, nightfeather
was everywhere. Did they fall

at once or scatter? This year
I won’t ask questions
like these and I won’t be

disappointed when
I’ve come up with an answer.
I don’t need answers.

I can go to the mailbox
and find a tally
of the grams I’ve shot-up

equated to the hours
of daylight I’ve got left
and be fine, knowing

that it’s time to make
some changes. Last night
was the last night

I’m high. I mean it. While everyone
was drinking and ringing in
the New Year, I stood in the yard

and decided that sometimes
you have to tell yourself
you’re the first person

to look out over
the silent highway
at the abandoned billboard

lit up by the moon
and think it’s selling a new
and honest life.

All you’ve got to do is take it.
It’s simple, even when you know
you’re not the first

to stand on a lawn of frozen dark
and scratch his arm
dreaming of the future.

I know there are ways to feel
different than how I do
just before the train pulls in,

or when I walk the halls
when everyone’s asleep,
or when I’m asked to hold

the shotgun, or when my brother
won’t give me cash when
he’s just trying to help

and way back
in the ruins of my mind,
I want to make a blackbird

of him. I’m capable of that.
And so are you. I dreamt

is like finding a balloon
in a drawer. Once it floats out,
you can’t fit it back in.

It just hangs there.
I just hang there on a string.
This year I won’t be

okay with that. In two days
I’ll admit myself
in exchange for putting out

the white fire on my scalp.
A paper cup, a pill,
an I.V.’s plastic needle

dry-humping an old
stab spot. My bones
will announce themselves

by packing up and moving out,
I’ll melt into my bed sheets
like I used to melt

into upholstery. They’ll say
the hard part’s coming.
When you can’t

take anything for the pain,
the pain takes you.
I’ll wait. I’ll be ready,

I’ll look out
my picture window
where across the street

they’ll be building a bigger,
better ward. Open floors
of steel stacked up

with tarps for walls
that fill like sails,
a galleon on the caustic waters

of the troubled. Blasts
of light from welders
like headless phoenixes

that would burn my eyes
if closer. Two things
brought together

through an arc
of white energy. I like
the sound of that.

But I’ll be there to pull myself apart.
It’ll start. I’ll hear
a blizzard coming

and think maybe someone
should do something about it.
The cold is already here,

filling up the window.
Maybe the window
was a bad idea?

Imagine that, the first window.
All that light bursting in.
No wind. And the world,

finally at a distance.
A thing to be looked at,
not felt.

William Brewer was born and raised in West Virginia. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Boston ReviewDenver QuarterlyKenyon Review OnlineThe Nation, and A Public Space. He has received a Creative Writing Teaching Fellowship from Columbia University, where he earned his MFA, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the 2015-16 Joseph McCrindle Online Editorial Fellowship from Poets & Writers. He is currently Associate Editor of Parnassus: Poetry in Review.

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