Springtime on the Family Farm; A Description of Town

Nathan Slinker

Springtime on the Family Farm

The mother cuts holes in the boy
and sticks photographs
of dead actresses
inside him, saying,
Remember what beauty is.
The boy’s father takes sheep shears
to the mother: rids her of wrinkles,
trims down thighs,
nicks her labia—sorry.

Her skin falls like snow
on the tongue of the boy,
lying now on a mound
in a dewstruck field.

Rising, the boy chops
holes in the sky with a hatchet,
careful to avoid the sun.
He plants cuttings of his family,
presses handfuls of cloud
around each slenderness—waits
for their faces to fall on his.

The next morning,
a neighbor girl comes over
and they go together
to the chicken coop
where a greasy towel
covers something on a table.
The boy slides the towel away,
showing off his family.
This one is my mother, he says,
pointing at one jar of air.
This one is my father.

A Description of Town

Water promises us nothing. Moss blanches in our wells.
Strong men wake up to die in old silver mines, to die
on saloon carpets in buckets of smoke and teeth.
The sun rises over our town like a fist of coins.

The streets talk dirty and look up girls’ skirts.
Children grow into fistfights with their bones,
and the painted horse in the barber shop is abandoned.
A streetlamp turns into a house fire, and then turns back.

Most of us return each night to where we found it.
The workers’ wives work at a cannery of flames
packing sparks into tins for a dead god’s cellar.
Above every storefront an empty room tries to sleep.

Sparrows roam the town edge, pecking late light
then spitting stars into dark. A bell sounds at seven
but the strong men do not come in for supper. A roan
whipped on for three days without feed folds like origami.

One day the sun rose and turned out to be a child
wishing for three more wishes. Those second story rooms
wait for miners’ ghosts and certain gods who tire of sky.
The most coveted job in town is designing the new moon.

One worker lost all his skin—sloughed off like a joke
about three people no one had ever met. The skin
became a kite and a child is flying it all the way
to something called an ocean, far away and calm.

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter