8.9 / September 2013

Three Poems


listen to this poem

The twinkle of the fetus randomly fades
still a bolus of cells, still barely a watermark
announcing the hidden river of her. Every one
of two of them do.

In the same universe a misfire
paints a teen girl’s day whatever
color means rolling through life and not
in a trucker-country folk-song sort of way.

If you could weave a howl into fabric
and tear it so slowly you could feel
each fiber breaking apart
as if two hands ungrasping

then you would know what animal
greeted me tonight, from outside,
with a death-cry.
In Istanbul, the call to prayer is now

mechanized, set to broadcast by satellites
closer to God than we’ll ever be.
And the rock doves take to the sky in panic
not at the wool-scratch of static

but at the sound of the song
they’ll nevertheless grow to trust.

Coming Home

listen to this poem

All the rooms are one

room full of heat you imagine
the shotgun barrel still

hums in twenty years

after that burst of song. How after
you swung it like an Easter basket

(standing over what pulp
authors call a halo)

loose from your hip. Oh
and did I mention it’s winter here

cold enough
to crystallize your piss

I suspect you’d appreciate. Never
mind people how

will you bear to hear what these walls have to say?

Come north. I’ll make a home for
and of you, leave a window

bowed, ajar. Snow, dust-

or old lover-like
seems to ask how soon

before you see me coming

does it begin to burn.
My question is from bone

to marrow or otherwise.


listen to this poem


Let me remind you how we met:
flickering screen, gist of womanhood

a presentation to
the failing day of me. Invite it in,

the blood-blue tongue like a bug

to light. Word pulled tight across my hip,
are you breathing? A sea of skin, every hair

a dorsal, glint of sun I call to.


Last year had the hum of a branch
bent to cradle the sun if you

stood beside me. What the redjackets know
there is no easing in. Spreading hand,

a fault line quivering in tune with her lip,
stay. Nothing waits

          for you in the ditch of those breaths.


Among organs, skin
a jackal in the streetlight. Fingers leap starward,

a hungry cold paints them black.
On the scale of things we’re not ready for

love is the itch beneath our footfalls.
You ask about the window: don’t

crack it but a little.
We may come apart between screams.


A recent dream: closing up the bar at midnight
I dumped the unused ice

into a sink for melting. Steam rose like it still
was in the bathroom hours

after they pumped your stomach. Meanwhile the ice
instead of melting, caught fire.


The city grows silent when I ask
why they dug your grandfather up

and buried him again, miles away from the family plot.
But based on the way the oldest pines

sway, creak in the wind and quicken
your breath, I know.


Young enough to still be college-bound
your fingers skim the surface of

my jacket, a sound like a single channel isolated
from a mid-summer storm’s recording.

You confess you do this for money.

Fire stirs in the wind’s sleeping belly, wants
to be water, to fit whatever will hold it.


Tight as I’ve held you, midnight vessel
something golden, familiar, seeps through the spider-cracks

interrogating. How many bodies across the room
did you see through, son?
I answer in

the falling ember’s infant language
her absence taught it,

me, to speak.


Fail this test, the bone-like sky
point-blank suggests
and you may as well bare your teeth
to the mothers of the morsels embedded there.

Somewhere, a cold so cold it burns
lives. Soldier, climb down from the fifty-cal;

still air sliced by a single feather
means you’re a minute too late.


Go to sleep. A swarm of futures
cushions every second. Let one you serpent

tongue from the air be us
and taste of rusty water.

Linger, screen, above my wrist.
Remind me how we met.

Josh Ruffin has held jobs as a peach picker, radio producer, and ineffectual bouncer. His work has earned a Special Mention in the Pushcart Anthology, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Post Road, The Pinch,Booth, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife in Wisconsin.
8.9 / September 2013