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  • Dusty Neu

Copperopolis & Calaveritas

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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