Poem of the Week | July 28, 2014

This week we offer another poem from our new issue, 37.2. Andrew Grace is the author of three books of poems, most recently Sancta published in 2012 by Ahsahta Press. Sections of his manuscript-in-progress The Last Will and Testament of Said Gun are forthcoming in The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, 32 Poems and Poet Lore. Other work is forthcoming from the Southwest Review, Passages North and the Cortland Review.
Author’s note:

This poem is part of a larger persona project in which the character of Said Gun is essentially telling his autobiography. He is elderly (I want his age to be indeterminate, but to seem impossibly old), and thoroughly Midwestern. In fact, as he tells the story of his life I hope to be telling a parallel history of the American prairie. Said Gun, as his name suggests, has a criminal past, from selling moonshine to being a peeping tom, and also has an unwavering belief in the sublimity of the Midwest’s landscape (especially its many forms of ugliness). This poem finds him reflecting on his own voice, imagining that his poems are living things out in the fields that surround him.


The Collected Poems of Said Gun


Like ants, they are nourished on tiny fragments of stone.


They bed down in lavender and lick their horrible hooves.


They have five stomachs so that they can digest the sorrow of the world.


They turn it into another kind of blackness that is fecund and useful and nauseating and loud with flies.


One eye is always missing.


They win many prizes, and for each they are rewarded with new hay and tick powder.


Sturdy as tar.


Some sleep standing up and each time they wake they collapse.


Some don’t sleep at all; like fish they drift in the murk of their silted vision.


Disloyal as blood.


They vary in size: some are 700 pounds and have to be hung off of the bucket of a backhoe with grade 100 chain to dry in the sun, some are too small to see and are born with no mouths and fly on their frail wings for only one day.


In the cold of morning, they publish their breath into the wind’s long scour.


They are a goat of testimony, a wine-skin of abolition, a slaking of thorns.


They are among the finest burning animals of their generation.


A herd of dereliction. A gift of nevertheless.