Copperopolis & Calaveritas

March 29, 2019




A bend death in the night roof.                 holding a 

bowl     a ladle                a look around the corner:                       

leander grew around windows.            on the one

hand it was enough:       a bowl     a gold chain   a           

steak occasionally                                

                                              a   swim   in   the   lake,              

several feet,            he flows down the river                         


at the foot of a hill with a                                house

gold tipped folded waterfall                      











Expect to walk out,                  turn, & run, & hurt

yourself on purpose.           to know when    to go    

to strike matches   to shave with a knife      in the

woods—& there's cold beans to slip on—to sleep

in shoes, 

blank faced,                    

or in the shape of   

a pine cone,     in the midst of a beautiful body in    

boring clothes, to know to look around the bend.     

headlights?                  a strange force?     the floor

gives out in the rhythm of                                     to

death,   to    throw    a    small    town    in    a    gorge                            










It's happening in reverse:     fox lamping           &                                           

boar coursing.        

lion family love glove ian clover                        lives

under the live oak & waves   us  over to show us         

his knife collection.  


the busy coastal folk & fog rushing               over

the ridge at night.             i’m watching leander’s 

ghost                floating by the fire pit          

                                 when ian whispers in my ear:                  

sandy ought to know i'm a man chopper with a

machete in  the  dark  damp  recesses of my soul,               

& feel real sour about it.                                    

if you’d looked you’d've 

found teeth buried in 

the red earth & bobcats         

asleep in the trees. 











It's fire trench digging with ghosts.    it’s circling

above my head,            another head.               "i'd 

run    & scorch    anything," hollers  ian  on  poor    

horseback   riding   off towards town.              i’m 

a shoveller with tender blisters;                       very

much gentle before meeting           

the  opposite  of  volcano,     not knowing when i

 might strike a gas line.     


it's early evening            

when sandy brings out the lemonade.    

                                                         leander's   ghost   

said he'd been in lone pine as the floor   dropped   

out.       around twilight        the ghost of  a  horse 

tries to dig out a gopher burrow.                         











Leander made a killing  

dredge mining the mokelumne.                           i'm 

still a boy when he (still robustly bodied) gave me

a sock full of       calf teeth.  


                                          "i love my job, i really do:"

were his first words, i'd heard. 


leander & his         ever             more           courage,

expanding          in grit,                            bloodied &

sopping wet in his overalls,      he wraps me in his

wrath,          lets me hold his cigarettes:  "yeah, tell

us more about them horses."                                











"A horse rarely 

weighs more than 

a mountain."               crossed-legged  at  the  table,

bleeding out, pulls me in close:         "in marchtime      

a bushy black forest                   follows me around;                        

a family load of orange frogs 

might fog                  my superstitions"     

in the short term, he means.       something rattling     

in the icebox.         a gopher  burrow       or      a fire

in a barn.     or when    a horse &  a rider are like  a

fire in a barn, a ceiling, a cloud,             . 











Then why not change the horse?                     what

happens to the worst in your horde?      the moral

of the matter       for the moment   


why not look at it again?      herds  

in the not-quite-so-smoky east of here.                &

no dryer than in the arctic     

there was,      in alternating years,      a lot of snow 

on     leander’s cabin  

& a turkey vulture                 following me around       

&                    waiting for the day                                                                        

my eyes roll white. 











"& what happened              to all them             poor

horses?"        were their faces         dug out?       

were they to their shoulders in rubble;  even more

than bleeding out on a barn floor?      how quickly

it’d play out might an island  become a peninsula.                           

                                                                  for leander's 

hands,             his ears,    his hairline—i'd have left

a big hunk of granite                                               


& two handfuls of charred leaves.             the wind

rattling the windows,            rustling in the bushes.  


O my dear             young men     swing your glasses in

balding               black  &  white  raise  your  shoulders          

honey to eat milk to drink             & o, o, o       rhythm,     

kindness,            destroy just the some of us.      










Dusty Neu is a poet and translator from rural California with an MFA from Brown University. He co-translated Alessandro de Francesco's Remote Vision from the Italian (Punctum Books) and his poetry has appeared in VOLT, Pear Noir!, and 3am. He lives and works in Rhode Island.

















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