A few are lonely,
but most are just afraid of dying.
Talking bears are different.
Hungry, but shy,
we have to be curious to fuck.
Questioning, we defy our low centers.
Wouldn’t anyone rather rake apart honeycombs?
After sex, once a year,
I sleep four months and dream
of Mary Oliver sniffing butterflies in the nude.
This is true romance: a blackberry feast,
and blindness to shame.
Bless her reverie. Once she watched me
clamber away in her vision
of making love to a talking bear.
the air heavy and still,
except two leaves on a birch sapling.
They twitched as if cracking up
at something the whole forest had missed.
Someone looking exactly like me
just turned the corner at West Broadway and Grand.
He was smiling as if he’d just had lunch
with a flamenco dancer who’d burst into flames.
He took long strides; no doubt she was tall—
taller than him—with hand-driven nails in her heels
and he was walking big as if pacing the memory
of her gira mortal, stinging herself with auto-percussion.
I followed him into a bar known for black wines
and cava and ordered a cortadito, a short one.
At first I was surprised that I could speak Castellano
like a matador on Benzedrine, all ego and hyper vowels.
Secretly, I’d always wanted to stroke a bull’s hump,
so velvet, so nearly shapeless, yet meaningful.
Then I lost him. We’d been alone, now dozens
of crooked suede elbows at the bar made pistol fingers
and reduced their stories down to exchanges of vague,
but clever impressions, like shimmering oil stains.
At the hotel, I passed a large bowl of apples in the lobby,
and spidery clerks who looked like they only ate on Tuesday.
How was your walk? the dancer asked from the bed.
I gave her an apple. She bit a star into it. Then another.
I took four soft bites last night.
I tried to masticate with the right side of my mouth
where my teeth aren’t as sharp.
I don’t want to know how old you were.
You tasted milk, surely, and some iron
found its way to your blood.
I’m told forty five days is about right,
not less than one full moon, not more than two,
butchering is so lunatic by nature.
Was it February? Tell me it wasn’t. Tell me
it was April and the orchard grass flung
from its roots to splash the valley.
Tell me seven of you were born that week
and there was play, and an enormous mother
and the greatness of dark and light.
My courage is wasted, and yours, unrewarded;
I still pray for my blood and not yours.
Thanks to your brow-hung Angus soul
when I am healed, I won’t even change my life,
except to return home with a one-eared feral Tom
discovered under the straw.
Barrett Warner is the author of Why Is It So Hard To Kill You? (Somondoco, 2016) and My Friend Ken Harvey (Publishing Genius, 2014). The woodsy poet runs a small farm in central Maryland and can be found at www.barrettwarner.com, where he blogs about Sherman Alexie and Christmas, among other sanguine topics.