previously published in The Fiddleback
It failed: I kept spading the dirt into
the shape of her hair. Nothing grew. That winter
each day I did a spell: I wrote down what she said,
folded the notes into my pocket, went skiing
in the forest so her breath when she came home
smelled like a katabatic wind
blasting pines. We kissed one night
on the couch, the TV preacher
broke down, finally, said something
so powerful and strange
we wouldn’t have needed to fall in love,
but we didn’t hear it, not fully, and she went on
buying me beautiful shirts, my closet like
a hothouse, flowers so red I can’t sleep.
Why I Quit Playing Text Twist
previously published in Subtropics
I kept missing her. Like in whiner,
where I also missed wren and whir.
I couldn’t find womb in bowman. In gusted
I uncovered dust and sued, but not duets.
Who wouldn’t find bile, bite, and lie
in blithe? It’s harder to find
lite and lithe. In snares
I missed seas. Every kid has found girls
in grills by accident, but not me. I only
got lugs and ugly in snugly, made up gunsly.
I saw sewers but not seers, the hole
in behold. There she was in pusher,
lurking with the user, but I missed her
again, and the pure there, the hue.
previously published in Subtropics
The bread, the salad, simple, oiled.
The coats on hooks, exhaling winter smoke.
The hand that was mine, the knuckles,
the table, smooth oak.
The girl I’d come to meet, the sky behind her hair,
Her legs crossed at the ankles, the coiling
evening traffic, forgettable talk.
The oysters, fat men at the bar, laughs
like question marks of breath.
The salt on the roads she came down, the choice
she made, the choice she almost made,
her mouth there, where I could touch it.
What we tasted, smelled, said, the places on my body
she touched, the places she did not.
I had been lonely, I had been hungry as a rat.
The glass, the salt, the road, her hands, the bread.
Remember the Storm
previously published in Woman Putting onPearls
I study the weather map, looking for you
as though green swaths of rain on the radar
were your hair and smell about to wash
over my city, like you could be predicted,
graphed, and I could dress right, or leave town,
before you blew against my coast, breaking
record highs, the white foam of you
pounding me, my sandy body drinking
your salt, like I could stand outside,
open my mouth, catch you on my tongue,
and you’d become my tendons and pigments, cells
and lipids, the grease I leave on pillows,
earpieces of phones, and forever they would say,
remember the storm, and every year every kid
in school would learn to sing your name.
I would let go of my heartbeat.
I would become mold on a rock, or milk,
riding the long night out in the cold dark
of the fridge, or clinging to a ridge, swinging
under stars on the Earth’s pull.
No more sad work of the drum while
I sleep, no more weary speeding up
and up when my legs buzz down streets.
I release you, loud hum in my arms and arteries,
dutiful blood. You’re free to beat
elsewhere. No need for a last look at
the acres of phlox along some Michigan river,
their white and purple here for just a breath or two,
we know. Unspool yourself. Go.
Jeffrey Bean is Professor of English/Creative Writing at Central Michigan University. He is author of two chapbooks and the poetry collections Diminished Fifth (WordTech) and Woman Putting on Pearls (Red Mountain Press), winner of the 2016 Red Mountain Prize for Poetry. His poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, in the 2014 and 2016 New Poetry from the Midwest anthologies, and in the anthology Good Poems, American Places. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Verse Daily, The Antioch Review, The Missouri Review, and Willow Springs, among other journals. He can be found online at www.jeffreybeanpoet.com.