7.10 / September 2012

Two Poems

RHINOCERI

listen to this poem

         We can agree there is a time for honesty
and then there is a time for honesty.
         This is one of those times. Honestly,

that night on my parents’ roof after
         we’d bought the condoms and made
our pacts and you asked if I was ready

          I said yes, that I was all yours, but
I didn’t tell you I couldn’t quit thinking of
         the National Geographic I’d perused

that morning in the can, the rhinoceri
         about to die from drought so I herded them
from Africa into my virginity’s history.

         I’ve come to know them as the way
I know something important’s going
         to happen, go out the window, or jump a horse.

And again they’re here in this, doing
         whatever rhinos do when they aren’t dying.
I’ve burnt up shadows staring into myself,

         the sun on the Serengeti. I thought you
a sky alive with birds of paradise, even
         when the rhinoceri first came to me and

even when afterward you said I couldn’t love,
         not really, because I was only seventeen-
I never was angry for that until yesterday,

         drinking on a street cafĂ©’s deck. I am
sitting with friends, a man and a woman.
         Another woman walks up and sits with us.

The new woman offers herself to my friend
         who promptly says my other friend is his
girlfriend. The new woman lowers her price.

         Bellowing rhinos surround me, rhinos
not dying of drought. The new woman understands
         and starts to stand to leave but falls over

drunk in the road. She refuses my hand
         to help her up, out of shame, mine or hers,
who knows. The rhinos are here and charging

         for the grace a boy in love deserved. Rhinoceri
believe in a golden age for love. The new
         woman tells my friends no one can buy

what she saw between them, she’s tried
         for years to drink her heart’s lake. I want
to say I scooped her up, a silver stallion

         crossing the plain, herding the rhinos, that
there was no time to fashion a saddle
         or make declarations in the night,

that we and the rhinos set off for every mirage.
         The new woman’s situation made me want
to cry. I am again in the can, reading the walls,

         wishing all these names are somewhere
scratching their bellies and backs against rocks and trees.
         The rhinos are standing in the rain.

 

BOY SPLINTER

listen to this poem

Skin he knows he doesn’t have. Yellow pine
         underneath the course grit sandpaper so

three seasons graying will go away layer
         by layer until the honey colored inside

becomes the honey colored outside with deep
         course grit scratches. He sees the grain,

the pores, the thirsty pine’s cells. Sinew and bone.
         The beer he’s drinking. The woman

he doesn’t want to cut her finger or drive a splinter in
         when she leans on the railing.

She will place pots here. Red-hot pokers one summer
         and basil the next. Yellow pine underneath

the finest grit- More like a fingernail file she uses
         readying for Friday. Barbecue waiting for

charcoal and flame. Vodka almost frozen and
         lemon wedges cut and wet in the ice chest.

She will lean on the yellow pine railing
         against the summer heat pretending her life

is a field just over the one she sees.
        The deck is on house’s edge. The railing,

the last stand between salmon dressed with a hint
         of citrus and clove waiting for the thin honey glaze

and the far field’s river ripping the world in half.
         He has finished the wood so she can white-knuckle

the edge of everything, turn and face him, the hurt
         she wants at the day’s end and mostly nothing else.


Christian Anton Gerard's received Pushcart Prize nominations and Bread Loaf Writers' Conference scholarships. His poems appear in Redivider, Orion, and The Journal among others. He lives with his wife, Lucy, in Knoxville. He's an English Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee and editor of Grist: The Journal for Writers.
7.10 / September 2012

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE