Go Fever

In the night I think of the moon’s cataract
glinting off the stunted teeth of bear traps, the releases so strong
most men can’t hold both ends to set the mouth. Many
use a long wooden plank, leverage versus brute strength.
The clouds like floaters on the eye. A lady shines spotlights
on the teenagers smoking in nearby driveways,
which is another way of saying Remember me. Count the ways
you ask to be remembered, walking home holding your dignity
like a shy cat. I am crossing the street the long way,
I am setting fires in the churches of beached debris.
Words are nothing, but the kind of nothing that keeps you
motionless in bed waiting for sleep, the kind of nothing
that follows you home and waits at the window.
My great uncle was stabbed in a bar in Oklahoma
arguing with a man. His sentences made a tunnel
through which death came. The sun is always cold
in your memories. Towns along the river lined up, browning
like old teeth with nothing to bite. We have forgotten
the moon again, the same as every sunrise before this.
Love hangs on a nail in the shed, a white line
traced around it so you notice if it’s missing;
the chalk around victims, vessels buzzing
from the force of their departure. We could be those rockets
that shed most of themselves as the pieces burn fuel,
become weight. What remains to sizzle into the vast? Mrs. Cullen drove us home
from school, cutting a conversation short when the newscaster
said the space shuttle exploded somewhere in the ghost
ocean of the sky. Bring out your dead, give a nice picture
to the journalist. In the space industry, "go fever" refers to rushing
to get a task done while overlooking potential mistakes.

The other kids and me in the car. I told my ma later
I could remember seeing it explode in the sky, but she said
it must have been my memory fooling me. My family in the year I was born
is a mystery I will never solve, like the kid we called “Bruiser”
having a seizure at school, the way we pretended
it was more interesting than scary. All I saw was a parked ambulance,
them wheeling him on a gurney. I kept seeing that moment
in my mind the rest of the day. Moments change, but some linger.
I see them as badges of my moving. There is a reason
to be afraid of silence, a lawnmower that quits
and might never start again. There is reason to adore
it, the feeling after you’ve jumped in the pile of leaves
and you wish you could stay, pretending you don’t hear
your father’s foghorn voice. The overweight youth pastor
cried when she told us Jesus died for her. She led sing-a-longs
and said we were all beautiful, stopping the kids
when they tried to carry me out the back door for their “sacrifice”.
Enough of these drops can make an ocean, too deep to see bottom.
The ecstasy and dread of not knowing. Sing for the bottom
you cannot imagine, the grass that lay in the shade.
Sing for the kids who cannot outlast
their parents. Praise shipwrecks like trinkets beaded
around death’s slender neck. Praise the floaters on your fishing line
showing the unseen deep. My father kept his sorrow
wrapped in a monogrammed handkerchief in his left back pocket.
He sighed and shook his head if you asked to see. Home
is a dance you learn over time, a hillside in the path
of a ceaseless fire burning forty miles away. Disasters
breed miracles, water pulling back to lay bare the seaweed and shells.
Swimming is a dialogue with vastness you learn
over time.  The plastic landmass of our waste curdles cold Pacific water.
Most magic is done with mirrors because they create whole things
from pieces: that moment when you reached out as a child
to touch your reflection, wondering what it would feel like.
A mirror is sand burned so badly
it can never go back. Night, the shadow the world throws
to remind us forever always happens somewhere else.
This morning I saw trucks driving into the protestors
bit by bit, the people rushing to put their cold hands
between the iron slats onto the wide-eyed pigs,
one woman sobbing, calling them babies. The slaughterhouse
security guard yelled THIS IS NOT A PLACE FOR PEOPLE.
Near my house, a church board says: “Earth is a pit stop
on the way to Heaven.”  I think of the back of every billboard
and mirror; the back of my wife’s slender neck quickening
as we make love and forget the dark half of the moon
is a conglomerate of damage, that leaves aren’t a nuisance
when they’re still tethered to the tree.

Todd Follett lives in Alameda, California, and is currently enrolled in the MFA Writing program at the University of San Francisco. His poems have appeared in DMQ Review. His interview with the poet Alan Kaufman, titled “The Necessity of Outlaws,” appeared in Switchback.

Home      Register     About Us/Staff     Submit     Links     Contributors     Advertising     Archives     Blog     Donation     Contact Us