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
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
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 &
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.
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.
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.