Jonathan Duckworth

Art: The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy by William Blake

Toxicity

When he first began haunting me,
——————–I feared for my sanity.
———-As if my brain,
——————-that sad, gray
———neuron patty,
hadn’t always been a spiked
punchbowl of mercurial chemicals.
———-I started finding the ghost
of William Blake
———-eating detergent
——————-in my utility closet,
his eyes ringed
from the exhaustion of sleepless death,
and his mouth ———ajar
Edvard Munch-style,
———-and foaming with suds.
Of course by now I’ve realized
———-that this act of his
is to remind me of organophosphates
———-accumulated in apple peels
and sweet potato skins—
——————–his way of telling me
that I must grow my own food,
or be poisoned
———-by another man’s.
The only crazy part
———-is that I keep ignoring him.


Cold Pastoral

On his way to the shed,
the old man slips,
and falls
on his face, in the snow.
His left leg a branch of birch
that gives and snaps.
Fresh snow melts on his face.
Soon he knows it will stop melting,
and his furrowed brow
will be like the shed’s corrugated tin roof.
The snow will cocoon and entomb him.
How long before he’s covered?
How long before the house is gone?
He knows he must drag himself forward,
to the door of the shed,
but his fingers have become coral-pink ornaments
grafted to his knuckles.
Behind the shed door,
eleven impossible inches distant,
is an alcohol stove,
a rough-fringed blanket
(when the wife up and left him, she left it unfinished),
A jar of rock salt,
a garland of dried salmon,
a bottle of ether,
pelts of wolf and snowshoe hare,
a pair of rusted pliers
(once he pried a sliver of glass
from his boy’s fingernail—
“it’ll hurt for a tick; then nothing”
he’d told the boy),
an assortment of pressure traps,
dull glint of snow-touched moon
welling like sap on their teeth and spring-coils,
and the whiskey he went to fetch.

Twenty yards back, in the cabin,
is a lit kerosene lamp (will it burn out or up?),
a pile of books all marked somewhere in their first chapters,
a steaming kettle of split-pea soup on the stove,
a pen on the spruce desk, its nib tipped
with a timid dribble of ink,
a page,
and at the top of the page
the monosyllable, “son,” scrawled
in the hatchet-kerf hand of the old trapper—
and then a white expanse.—————————————


Anti-Diminuendo

Brass complications of a music box
grinding out their tinny tune in an empty house’s clapboard husk
playing for no one
——————–and thus for everyone.
A song in darkness, thrown to earless night
is the most necessary.
——————–We only step once
in Heraclitus’s river,
but the whitecaps rushing from our ankles only grow
——————————never diminish.
The ancients sought adamantite,
a substance harder than diamond, indestructible,
and for that worthless—how can we learn a thing’s value
———-until it breaks?
Like all myth and alchemy, this was a blind grab
at eternity.
——————————A handful of space.
———-Oh well,
you can always hold your own hand.


Jonathan Louis Duckworth is an MFA student at Florida International University, where he serves as a reader and copy-editor for the Gulf Stream Magazine. His fiction and poetry appears in or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Fourteen Hills, Literary Orphans, Lunch Ticket, Cha, Off the Coast, and elsewhere.

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