On Ingesting Poison
The year we bought earthquake insurance
in Oklahoma, I dug out the roots
of three holly bushes for fear children
might eat the red berries, need their
stomachs pumped, require charcoal
to absorb the poison. Finding the depth
where the roots stop burrowing erodes
my spade until the handle is reduced
to sawdust, leaving me scooping clay
with my hands in this hole as deep as
I am tall. Industrious, the toxins we dig
for flow through the water table, fill
the soil, lodged under my fingernails.
On Eating Fire
Down is the cardinal direction
on all my mom’s maps. Down
to Dallas for the carnival, down
to Colorado Springs for family
obligations, down to the lake,
down to New York for the burning
Broadway lights. Hell is down,
of course; heaven, too. We went
down to the store, though it
wasn’t downtown. To be fair, we
did go down to downtown. Down,
persistent direction, went the quiet
flame of her voice, her unyielding
way to say I know where I’m going.
This Halloween, children dress up in straitjackets, ignite a protest movement in the neighborhood, refuse participation in the trick-or-treat economy. They face pepper spray and tear gas canisters that trickle down from the army surplus to local law enforcement. Overflowing with blood, orange broad-faced jack-o’-lantern buckets hang loose from their jaws. When all the candy is toxic, a sweet tooth will do you in. Look at the grin on those buckets, chipped teeth glowing in the dark. The children hug themselves, closed canvas sleeves, one arm over the other, leather straps a lighter brown where the stretch marks show across their backs.
Randall Weiss is the Interviews Editor at The Cossack Review. His poems have appeared in This Land, Crosstimbers, NAP, and elsewhere. He is an MFA candidate at University of Missouri – Kansas City and lives with his family in Overland Park, KS.