Back to Issue Thirty-Four

Letter Attached to the Leg of an Owl



Hello. I can see your smoke signal
through the woods. I couldn’t
help but notice most of you
is gold. Is that a choice
or an outcome? Several pages of history
begin exactly like this or close enough
it probably makes no difference
cosmically. What is that? Yes,
I do tremble some days—low blood
sugar, rotten thoughts, money
money money. I do envision a temple
we’ll one day enter, one at a time, and work
with others constructing painfully
the diorama of our life. I am wedded
to the everyday as a horse is wed
to flies. Come over here, we can play
my favorite game. It’s hard to explain with fire
but if you are into the fourteenth century
you’ll catch on. I wish I could say more
but there is a beautiful person in my brain
doing the most tremendous
things. Pardon the mosquitoes
or don’t. They are migratory birds and love
to lose what we can’t, determined like Judas
to kill their darlings. I’m becoming quite convinced
now these balloons are deflating to no real
purpose. Did I not mention the balloons?
Should I tell you it’s not true
that lobsters boil and don’t know it.
They see it like a flock of geese
sees water. Like the man who works
his whole life to spell his name in lights
though doesn’t realize it’s an execution
and the whole town has come
in butcher’s aprons, forks in hand.
Hello, he said. Hello, they agreed.



Who do you think you are and where are you going?



I’m sorry, this is my first rodeo.

Did I say first?
I mean worst.

Years ago my ancestors
buried children beneath
their buildings.

Does this make me necessary
evil? Sown fruit? If you look close
you can see the intentions behind anyone

like a pair of poorly-hidden horns. A lover
once pressed an ear to my chest and said
I can hear a thousand hooves

Or did she say wolves?

A body can only get so
bloody. Help me

remove these saints
from my window. Help me remain

on Jupiter. An owl can hoot seriously
or sweet. A voice says work, and I work.


Jeff Whitney is the author of five chapbooks, two of which, Smoke Tones (Phantom Books) and Radio Silence (Black Lawrence Press) were co-written with Philip Schaefer. Recent poems can be found or found soon in 32 PoemsPassages NorthPleiadesSixth Finch, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. He lives in Portland with his partner and their dog, Swayze.

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