Uncouth for the calling venture to say I can guess how many sluices have been integrated into your brains is not a way of looking or preaching or holding. I stand to be anything but wind I stand with a knee in the water my shin bent in a lowly position. The same joke told over and over. And into the indistinct aperture of recognition my father approached for the whelp gone pursuant to wind and the uncle chases the brother and the brother chases the dog chasing a frisbee and father goes to work in a blueblack pickup truck. He goes to the gas station we say it like a refrain who could put us in our place but we might never get out of here. How would you like if it I went to your house and broke your windows you wouldn’t like it at all if I ate your food. I grew up one day and had sex in the shed behind the dumpster behind the Maid-Rite there is no lexicon to save you. We lived on a hill in front of the town landfill and these are only facts. My father was a mechanic at a gas station and I sat there for hours on a seat that had been gutted from a vehicle. The smell of smoke and exhaust makes me nauseous I did vomit when I found out something was wrong there was no money I did vomit when they had to shoot the dog who was eating the other dog I swear to god. The wolf dog who lived in a hollowed-out house without windows without doors without eyes and tried to come after me.
We all saw ghosts. Once in front of the headlights crossing the highway to get mail, some sort of white house dress. The other time in the bedroom with the lights off. There was a rope in the barn window. The lawn chairs were upended in rain, the charcoal drying out, who reupholstered the couch but it never was quite right, nor the calling from a-farther, througher, more thorough, do a better job, do only your job, over and over, and repeat the task like you like it, repeat the words until they make sense, we were taking fiction by the throat and telling it that god is red, god is red and indecently exposed, god is erasure, god is a riddle, god is a labyrinth.
It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t meant to be, the way the mind floats above the crick running underneath the gravel road. There are no vacations, only long car rides to New Mexico with three kids and a grandmother packed into the backseat. She tells stories about living in a garage with her mother and three siblings until her brother died. Her father died from overdosing on alcohol and barbiturates and the church wouldn’t allow him to be buried in the cemetery because the death certificate said suicide. He didn’t want to die, she said. His hair was pulled through a factory machine and he had excruciating scalp pain someone says it’s a shame that people die from work-related injuries but do you understand what kind of toll it takes on the body he drank himself to death.
Julia Madsen is a multimedia poet and educator. She received an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University and is a PhD candidate in English/Creative Writing at the University of Denver. Her first book, The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial: Investigations into the Heartland, was recently published with Trembling Pillow Press and was listed on Entropy’s Best Poetry Books of 2018.