Back to Issue Twenty-Two.




A man touches you
when you do not want to be touched
and it doesn’t burn
but there it is—a wick.

The body a little bomb
that pleasure sometimes lights.

No Buick is safe
from the hand that reaches back
through that little gap
between the seat and B-pillar
to fumble softly at your ankle,

no complicated joint
with all its crisscrossing papery sinews
safe from the humid fire of a hand
sent through the dark
on the errands of need.

I lived in a swamp then,
jogged through August
along the crab-fetid ponds

and sometimes I beat him

but most times I collapsed
after vomiting what little water
my body allowed,
tangled up and ropy with phlegm,

and no matter which it was
he was always angry after,
the coarse dark hair on his arms and chest
miraculous for not just ashing away.

His body wicked, yes,
for how it bent me like a birch to it

but also in the strangled breezes
that straggled off the sun-gilt estuary
a swaying forest of fuses.

A stinking copse of quivering wicks.






I could. I could
make a canoe out of him.

His legs the oars, an arm the tiller,
the ribs and spine a sturdy frame over which

to stretch and batten the skin
I’ll have shaved and tanned and oiled first.

The other arm a bony thwart.

But what about the waters
long and deep and rough between us?

An outrigger, then. Scrap
the tiller and the thwart,

the arms booms now
fastened to the gunwales

and a leg of mine the float.

I can paddle towards you now.

At night I’ll eat the fish I snag
when they try to chew me down to bone.


Conor Bracken’s poems appear in or are forthcoming from Forklift, Ohio; Muzzle Magazine; Love’s Executive Order; The New Yorker; and Thrush Poetry Journal; among others. His chapbook, Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour, was selected by Diane Seuss for the 2017 Frost Place Chapbook Competition, and will be published by Bull City Press in late 2017. A graduate of Virginia Tech, former poetry editor for Gulf Coast, and assistant director of a university writing center, he received his MFA from the University of Houston, in Houston, TX, where he and his wife currently live.

Next (A.P.) >

< Previous (Denver Butson)