“That the Deer Tick is The Pilot Light of the Universe” and “4 AM” by Michael McGriff


Found in Willow Springs 85

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for Tim Johnson


Or let me be
reborn as that small mountain
of broken glass
you mistook for a snowdrift
in the Salvation Army's parking lot.


Or as the billboard
on the edge of Deronville, Alabama,
that since 1983 has announced
The Future Home of the World's
Largest Rocking Chair.


The defense offers this, your honor:
I was born in 1968 in Rockford, Illinois,
and followed the tip of God's cigarette
until I ended up in Oregon,
so let me come to in the ditch
with leaves plastered to my face,
but this time let me start out
all synced-up with the knowledge
of the body's irrelevance.


There's a cistern that says what I say
just seconds before I start to say it.
The gray threads I mistook for clouds
answer back, pretending I'm not even here.
They're not even clouds. And they're not
not the stringy guts pulled from an animal
with the head of the future
and the body of the past.


I'd be just fine coming back
as all the money lost salting
the clouds of West Texas.


And I'm more than happy
to watch myself again
earn an entry in The Horses' Big Book
of Human Disappointments.


My arms are too long.
I'm missing 2 ½ ribs
and my heart's a torn
grocery sack in the rain.


Let's say I return as the knife
and you come back as the needle
and the moon
shaking its head
comes back as the thread.


When I plunge the blade of an oar
into green water I am reborn,
and that should be enough.


When I float my name out in a paper boat.
When I unscrew the stars from their sockets
or hear coffee percolate above the fire.
That, too, should be enough.


But instead I feel the deer tick
move deeper into me
and complain about the neighborhood.
This used to be such a great place.
Now, just look at it. Look at what it's become.


"4 AM"


I am more
than a little tired
of this parable
where I walk
old roads
careful of snakes
stretched across
warm August gravel,
where the moon finds
a perfect copy of me
in the fields
and surrounds him
with something
akin to fire.
I greet him only
at a distance.
We're suspicious
as new neighbors.
He raises a hand
to greet me
as I raise mine.
No, he's attaching
a clothespin to a line,
or stringing lights
among the trees.
Or he's choosing
a name to erase
from the monument
this hour has become.
As my tongue becomes
a fish packed in salt
and hung from a low star
to sing until it dries.

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