Four Poems by CL Bledsoe

Yellow Bus

Memory stains the brain like blood on cloth. The breath
reeks of loss. Listen to yourself clomp from bed
to sullen desk thinking: you can never go home
again and smile. Oh Delilah, I miss the glint of sun
on your wire frames in the back of the bus. Demons
in designer shirts all tans and teeth pushing you
and your gimpy leg down the steps, fists
in the hallway. Sweat and urine in the breeze.

Delilah, you told me the sadists wouldn’t win,
but there’s one holding my house note. I don’t remember
their names so how will I know who to vote for?
I walked home to keep from smelling their shit-eating
smiles. You let them ride with you, in the yellow bus
of your heart, all through high school. They elbowed
their way to the back seat where no one could see,
and you smiled your crooked smile and stared ahead.

2/7ths of a Life

1. Saturday is for waffles, slow walks, and grading.
2. We never realized how comforting a clean kitchen can be.
3. In the evening, we go through the house, covering all the mirrors so no ghosts can get in.
4. It’s easy to forget when you have no time to remember.
5. Headaches become a way of life.
6. We walk everywhere because rubber is cheaper than gas.
7. Monsters are no longer scary, but our bosses have become monsters.
8. You’ll grow to hate dishes.
9. You’ll grow to wish you’d taken that drunk girl home.
10. Showering means more clothes to wash.
11. Crying over Gogol’s birthday.
12. Bed picnics on Sundays.
13. Mel Brooks movies aren’t enough.
14. Jokes become complaints.
15. My heart is pure but my head is full of sand.
16. We miss something neither of us can name.
17. We’ll eat each other to save our hearts from the cannibals.

The Breath

Fear lives in the breath, in the wretched slaughterhouse
of the suburbs. I didn’t know
everyone hates the smell of their neighbors’
garden, the taste of charcoal fumes leeching
into rough kitchen walls, the sight of tanned legs and white
bellies, the scream. Fear is mothered in the gut,
in the aching eyes of the Homeowners’
Association. Drown it with a cold one, but fear
can swim. The red clay on which we’ve built
our debt is waiting to slide. If I feel blood in my veins,
I am not dead. The question is one of volume
and color. Also investment opportunities.

But the St. Vitus Dance of Despair is not
a viable exercise regimen unless
there’s a dress code, the proper accoutrements,
an audience. You aren’t dying, champ; you look too good
to die. Fear lives in the air, so we surround ourselves
with stagnation. We breathe only dirt.
Our wretched burrows, lined with fashionable filters.

Tow Head

After school, you fly home, a child stretching restless legs again,
except you’re the teacher, now, red pen to rewrite the world,
except, it’s boring, somnambulant students wasting your time,
except, when you stomp up the stairs, you discover your legs tight
and aching after a day of pacing out miles in a 30×30 cage. Your wife
is in the kitchen, sleeping loll-headed baby strapped to her chest. This
is something you can’t put words to, only fix in your eyes and tuck away
some place to consider when you have more time. Some things are just
for looking at, not understanding. You eat, chat, send the wife to bed
after two days with maybe six hours sleep, sit, baby on your chest,
now, feel your legs stiffen and contract, lock and burn. Bear it. She is empty
of all but the need to be filled. It aches in her, forces strangled sobs.
You try to put her down so you can work, but the absence of your warmth,
your heartbeat, your rhythmic breath jar her in a start. Cup her head and sway
while, upstairs, your wife snores softly. This is the true work. You’ve got hours
to sit with her, legs cramping, head drooping. Pat the air from her stomach;
like so many things she’ll face, it takes up room, but doesn’t nourish

Profile: CL Bledsoe

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