Animals

By Brock Guthrie

Featured Art: Leg in Hammock by Edward Weston

One is what one looks at—well, at least partially. —Joseph Brodsky

All morning in my hammock burning
a tight one, poised with pencil and notebook
and seven-week beard, I look to the pines
outside my cabin, seeking inspiration
from the birds and the squirrels
whose singing and foraging, whose
exclamations, no, arguments, reflect
my inner my inner my inner . . .

and every so often my cousin Ricky returns
from hunting rabbits on my four-wheeler
to tell me he’s thought of a new way
to beat off: Anywhere around here to buy
watermelons? Even his camo flannel
can’t conceal that Superdome belly
and I hate to think how long
since anyone’s seen his diminutive dangle
so I tell him in all seriousness, my sympathy
sincere, You might be on to something,
but after he tokes and rides away
I get inspired, realize I should’ve said
Go drive around these country roads, man,
look for signs!
and even Ricky would’ve
nodded with a look of feigned profundity
like he’s posing for an author photo
but I let that moment go
in order to capture the moment of me
alone with the foraging squirrels
and their question-mark tails, the birds
whose names I never learned
to remember. Yet why not simply see it?
Why not say what happens? Forgive me just now
if I feel a little sheepish (question-mark tails?)
if I feel a little guilt-sick for my under
used brain, the old poetic pathways
so infrequently travelled that, too easily,
on warm days like these
when I find myself finally ass-in-hammock
with a will to invent, the mind’s ice melt
evades the deadfall of word-alchemy
to seek instead the well-carved rivulets of
roll-another-joint-and-drink-another-beer
that feed the Netflix stream
into the Ocean of Ohfuckit
till I’m all, like, totally
washed up on the Jersey Shore. Or surfing
my iPad on a Youtube. No surprise, then,
when Ricky rides up all boots and burrs
with his iPhone out and a video to share:
Check it out, brah, she puts Sriracha on it
before it goes in. If I tell him I’d rather be
road-kill, a heap of broken armor
for a crowd of sarcastic crows, than ogle
fetish porn on another man’s cell phone
does he still announce with equal aplomb
that he’s just come from seeing armadillos
banging in the woods like a couple
of rabbits?
and do I ask him to clarify
what he means by “come”? or do I
take a quick peek, close the matter off
with a simple observation that proves
I almost care? Look, man, I’ve slept
with fake blondes, and as your video confirms
they often don’t know how to do it.
And yet
I feel a minor buzz in my pants.
But it’s a text from my wife: Don’t. Be. Mad.
Well . . . she’s at lunch now
with old MFA friends, a teetotaler couple
from somewhere up north. Of course,
I should be there, but my wife let it slip that
she’s writing a series of moon pantoums
and he, I don’t know, probably writes
about squirrels. Me: Why what is it?
Wife: They need to sleep over.
Wife: I couldnt say no.
Wife: Itll be fine he wants to swap poems.
How do I express, 160 characters or less,
how terrified this makes me? Then ill be
out there in the trees with blanket&bottle
&block of headcheese.
Send the dogs
in the morning to let me know theyre gone.

The patio door hinge whines again.
If it’s Ricky with a porcupine
I’ll cry right now. His hands are empty,
but what about his mind: I was staring
at this log and I had a weird thought—

the longer you look at something, the more
it looks like you.
Which must be why
this poem is making me nervous.


Brock Guthrie’s poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Los Angeles Review, The Southern Review, and other journals. He teaches English at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

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