will read this and think,
they’ll be thinking,
thinking awfully hard,
Who is this? What is this moving toilet of words?
There are rats
everywhere in this house.
Five or six creek rats.
Thick tails, oily bodies, all the things
you’re thinking about rats, probably.
They squeal and stomp
inside the fireplace, in and out and in holes
they’ve chewed into the sheetrock,
low to the floor where the trim should be.
But rats. Rats by mountain load.
And still this moving toilet of words.
full of rats that write in cursive
threats across my walls
inside of my skull. Nothing makes me feel better.
Not even X-Files.
I hate the way
my face looks.
Drooped, unsacred, tired in a way separate
from drooped, scarred, stroke-drooped,
My face is a rat. I’m like a swollen rat.
Like the swollen rat in a trash
can full of rainwater at the end of my house
that I will never ever touch
and will leave forever placed where it is rotting.
These are my goodling shoes.
She probably has some kind of
woodpecker cushion brain
A posthumous existence 1
Floating in a butterfly’s eye.
A Pavlovian rock hound.
Do you play Pokemon Go?
Nine inch nails of snow.
Sing for me as you once did
when the river caught your tongue. 3
Happy birthday, Spraynard.
I’m disappointed in you. 4
1 John Keats in a letter describing how his life seemed during the bout of sickness that would eventually take his life at the fair age of 25. Later, he would yell at those around him, asking when his posthumous existence would be over.
2 From one of those Facebook questionnaires asking if I play Pokemon Go. This was my answer, trying to be as clever as I possibly could on social media.
3 From the television show Taboo. In episode one of the first season, Tom Hardy’s character, James Delaney, says this while having hallucinations of dead people coming back to life to try to kill him.
4 A line from Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show. The episode, from season one and called “Dads,” involved a prank phone call during which Tim said his son’s name was Spray, short for Spraynard. Later the two sentences used in this poem were put on a wall in decoration for Spraynard’s birthday party.
I sense you are religiously unhappy with me
so don't call the alligator
big mouth til you cross the river. 1
kind of like birds so
all birds look like chickens to me. 2
I always liked to see my
stepdad kiss my mom.
I wanted them to love each other.
Let me be your filicide muse;
we will fight in the shade 3
round the basement of my soul.
I’m more of a whatever.
I’m more of a
God’s incest jam. 4
1 A line from the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven. It’s a part where they’re crossing some country apparently rife with Comanche. Not sure which character said it, but it wasn’t Vincent D’Onofrio, who played, by far, the coolest character. I guarantee you he thought of that voice for his character on his own.
2 From a song by Sweet Papa Stovepipe, which I was turned onto while reading Michael Robbins’s Equipment for Living: On Poetry and Pop Music.
3 From the film 300 and beautifully and badassedly said in response to this line: “Our arrows will blot out the sun.”
4 My revised version of a comment made by Jereny Tackett after reading Cy Est Pourtraicte Madame Ste Ursule, et Les Unze Mille Vierges by Wallace Stevens. I can’t write what his original comment was here for the same reason I can’t right it above. We all fall victim to censorship from time to time, even if it is self-inflicted. But I do hate myself for it. So you know.
Bio: Sheldon Lee Compton is a short story writer, poet, and novelist from Kentucky. He is the author of three books of fiction and an upcoming collaborative chapbook of poetry. His most recent fiction and poetry has appeared in Wigleaf, BULL, Mannequin Haus, and Vending Machine Press. You can find him @bentcountry on Twitter and by visiting bentcountry.blogspot.com.
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