1. Threadbare

Springtime does need me—in silhouette, smeared
Across a backdrop of pastoral bloom & rot.
I make my days heady the best way I know how,
Carving out my nights with a dull blade
Until the sun slits the day in two.
Slack-jawed, when I holler, I holler loud,
A glissando up every sleeve. I’m fiddle,
Falcate & humming in all the right places,
A pair of scars badging forearm roughly
Resembling heart & spade. Memory draws scent first
And with little effort. For example, a horse in its stall
Stomping at thick air. It’s good to be incendiary, lit up,
Sparked heel to crown. The season is burgeoning,
Night swollen with regret. What else to take
A tunnel of wind as but a sign. An arrow dequivered,
Set in the bow’s taut gaze. Open fields
Made plain for the wire fences surrounding.


2. Auld Lang Syne

Waiting for the ball to drop, I will the lights across the city
To come on like a lucid dream, like redemption
On a cold night slack of stars. They don’t, & I’m left
Waiting in the hard dark, making the small red mouth
On the crown of my index finger talk like a puppet:
The northern spy, the pocket knife. She says
I miss your switchback smile, so I pull my kicking boots on.
Once, in her rust-taken pick-up, powder blue, a ring
Of brown birds wheeled above, so many I swore
It was a search party, something like god looking for me,
In that field by the road, corn stretching skyward,
Pushing its way through damp soil beside. Someone’s
Playing ditties on a shoddy fiddle by the pier. Someone’s
Got a hat full of loose change, begging for mercy
Or a fistful of shiny news. I’m horizon eyes
And buzzing. Dry mouth. Lonely. Set utterly reeling.


3. Way out West where the Riders Are Ready

The din of solitude. A compendium of non sequiturs
In each fist. The sky, as ever, a smattering of good ideas
That faded years ago. And the wind overhead
Navy in its way, its gaze fixed & wanting.
Scuffed, I shuffle in my boots, saddle up & ride
My coy horse into the jackdaw night. Each of these
Scars I gathered alone in fields dark with grain.
In a crowded room, I scatter like watered bees.
Sheets turned down, sleeves rolled up.
This is the land where everything is painted
To look free. Photographs never tell it like it is,
The camera rent of film, negatives from the last
Adventure a mirror image of our green & former selves.
Shoes within arms reach, the chain already
On the door. If the tumult comes, I’ll be slapping the sky
Free of its misery. The birds gone
Quiet. The look of me holding my breath.


Erin Bertram is the author of eleven chapbooks, most recently “Memento Mori,” an excerpt from her hybrid text “The Vanishing of Camille Claudel” was named a published finalist in the 2013 “Diagram” Essay Context, and a hybrid text about her mother’s experience navigating breast cancer is forthcoming in “Uprooted: An Anthology on Gender and Illness.” She is a PhD student and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Creative Writing program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, pursuing a specialization in Women’s & Gender Studies.

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