Fifth-graders combed the high grass
behind the buckled basketball court
for combatants then held them thumb to thumb,
forelegs flailing like bum fighters,
mouth machinery grinding until one head was gone.
Pruitt had a hoss, gladiator-thorax
that won three days running. It rode the bus
home with him, sealed in a jelly jar.
But it too was chewed up in that weird kiss
that oozed brown like tobacco juice onto our hands.
When I talked of headless bodies in the dirt
beside the swings, my wife looked worried,
as if the Ur-tumor deep in the bellies of boys
might be metastasizing in the man
pouring her coffee in a china cup.
Her mother flushed the medicine,
convinced, with sufficient prayer, the voices
in her daughter’s head would scatter like dark birds.
The gaunt girl sits across the desk,
fragments of a brilliant paper in her hands,
saying she hasn’t slept in five days.
Her eyes don’t plead. They’ve locked her up before,
bandaging arms and burning poems.
She knows Monday the essay is due
and Jesus, beautiful and broken,
swings at the end of her mother’s rosary.
After five days awake she hears some people
mocking Him, some weeping at the cross,
the hurried indifference in the streets,
her body a frayed wire all the voices travel through.
apocryphaltext Vol. 2, Nos. 2 & 3
Stuart Bloodworth teaches English at Motlow State Community College in Tennessee.
2 poems by stuart bloodworth