Back to Issue Thirty-Three



They raze swiftly each interstate mystery.
The haunted house.
The Astrolabe. The silent calliope, emptied of air, ornate
as a head-of-state’s coffin

on wheels, its gold-
painted spokes, its faux-ivory panels
as chipped and streaked

as my mother’s teeth were then—
which, even in memory, she can’t afford
to fix. This is in lieu of

what I really want to say.

In an hour, the children we were here
will sleep, forgetting
their bodies forgetting

umbilical airgun stalls, the feel of
the handles and the reigns
of the horses speared through on poles, for travel
unmounted lying side by side

like a civil-war still life together in the fennel
as tall as a person, taller even

than parents among the patrons, with their paper cones
of sugar as they leave, sweeter
than soda, sweeter even
than Matthew, the pear taste on his lips

I savor any time I eat
a Waldorf salad, suddenly younger and
with him again, re-watching

the caravan prep its procession
to some next destination: de-christened hearses
and escort vans, econo-trailers
and towing booths

and tosser-stands, from which
any one of us could buy
brass rings to throw through

a cardboard circle of a Bengal’s mouth, and beyond
its black drape, its rough crepe
synth-linen mix, with its fabric stars
affixed comically

to the drape—behind which, if you dared
peel it for a peek between shifts,

while the vendor on-break
would be rolling a joint with his boo-boo
stash, behind all that you’d see

each dollar-twenty fate, each zil
where it fell unseen
behind the drape, into a daisy-print bucket
filled with them they’d leave

til near end, the carnies, or whatever we call them
now, needing two of them
to lift it, and sometimes more.


Brian Tierney’s poetry and prose have appeared in Boston Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Adroit Journal, AGNI, Harvard Review, and others. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he was awarded the 2018 George Bogin Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and has been a finalist for the National Poetry Series, Frontier’s Industry Prize, and Ploughshares’ Emerging Writers Contest. He lives in Oakland, California, where he teaches poetry at The Writing Salon.


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