& there was the snakeroot: the clustered white
of wildflower that once, my uncle warned me of:
don’t be puttin’ that anywhere near that mouth, ya hear? I hear
the song of the distant catfish whispering to the riverbed.
Start over: beside the wildflower, the faded red
of the stable, with that leftward lean that varied
upon the direction of the wind, or whether or not
the hickory beams had yet known the gnaw of carpenter ants,
& with what force the boy from across the road
had pushed me up against the flaking paint that night. Do it again,
with more color: rust drowned the bell, loosely noosed
from the door frame & stuffed into silence by his white undershirt.
There were horses there, too, speckled colts box-stalled & restless.
Columns of gunmetal smoke erupt from their nostrils. Go back, try
again: of course there was my mouth. Too concerned with his to think
about the way light spilled from my uncle’s truck, or how it lacquered
the long driveway in citrines. Start over, what else was there? Above all
of this: the moon’s pallid scythe harvested the sky
of its remaining blues. None of this is right. I cannot remember
that night anymore without crying. The easel is beginning
to slacken beneath my hand, the canvas heavy
with color. There are too many dead things
in the paint, & today they all thicken into his body.
there was a wildflower, a pasture. Horses in a stable. Behind it, boys
fumbled into a perfect sort of coupling. There is no smoke. No uncle
to whittle the night into the shape of a bruise.