Fall 2017, Volume 23

Poetry by Dimitri McCloghry

Category Five

I want the old feeling to come back,
so I enlist the help of fire: tinder, dry wood,

a matchbox. Anything a man can find.
On the wrong side of town, a wind blows

through the projects, a crowd of wives clenches signs
more omen than mere protest. In their eyes, a rise

of traffic brings them to a still. But they’re clear
and not afraid. Walking into all of them would be

the easy way out. But what came to simmer is
now a high heat. The boats go out to sea because they’re

called. We watch rubber burn and people flee from
what they don’t understand. Across from us, the power

lines begin to sag because they’re not ready. I click a lighter
to bring the calm. On the wall, four dolls and a graduate

degree. In the symmetry, you’re being brave. Lying down,
our hair begins to rust from sweat. Beyond the rain,

the light’s so red it summons all our blood. We break
flush as cards, but inside grow everywhere. Later,

when the rocking stops, we think it’s over. But in the lane
of your lips, the cars sound lethal, and I go to meet them.


Not always the curtain’s heaving,
But the inexplicable silence after
It’s finished, ashamed of me

Watching. There’s a body
In all things, another exhibition
Waiting to happen. This time,

I want it slower: the air calm,
A few hints to let me know
It’s getting started, the fabric

Turning into itself how waves do.
But the vein of thread always
Comes apart and twists back

To the spool that held it
From my mother’s hand.
That day, for some reason

I can’t remember anymore,
She threw it together
Stitch after stitch, as I tried

To control my temper,
The warm bells of blood
Ringing in my neck. Heat

Everywhere. The kind that chokes
Without asking. Her
Telling me to make peace

With it before she died.
All these years, I’ve been trying.
The air becomes her whisper

And suddenly, I am the curtain,
A falcon rising,
The current pulling me to fire.



You were seven. You were shirtless
by a river. You were shirtless
by a river and foaming

at the mouth as you shook.
If we don’t take him,
nobody will. A man nodded

and agreed. You’d been trying
to sleep, felt yourself cradled
by a woman with many jaws,

all of them heavy on your chest
before the storm. Rain mixed
with the pooling foam.

You’re okay now,
don’t worry, we want you.
Each reassurance grew louder.

You couldn’t blink.
Lying still, you tried to speak.
The mouths picked at you like birds.


Years later, the mouths went
quiet. You needed comfort,
but nothing made room

for the air-conditioned air
fostering your flesh.
You tried to forget it all,

skip the fierce, filthy river
of everyone,
but no one could strip you down,

or torture you into submission.
Everything you wanted whispered
a few lies. Clouds were being

summoned. Downstairs,
your father’s hands were stained
with turpentine, a dirty angel

haloed by his own doing.
He was on the couch, asleep.
Looking down, the years disappeared

like parents. You remembered
old arguments. Setting the table,
your thoughts were a pack of wolves.

They wanted blood
you did not have. Across
from you, your mother coughed,

asthmatic. In her hand, a glass trembled
as if fearing a soprano.
Everything was ready to give out.


You’re lighter. Flocks
still dream of your shoulders:
hair combed back without hint of water,

your slick, manic heart
taxing itself against
the shirt that jailed it, your eyes

fixed on what brought you here,
always watching.
In the domestic ritual,

your parents renew their vows:
his slacks billowing
in the wind, her hair a pyre

begging to be lit.
On the steps, they go up
but never come down, saying

I do, I do. In their wake,
you watch them dance:
your father dark

but tender in his own way.
And your mother, unabridged,
inhales the light.

Aubade in Which the Mare Begins to Bleed

You don’t have a single, wicked bone anymore, but I can hear
         the danger in the way you say it. Above Rob’s body,

your face bleeds through the polish, the casket cool water,
         and for what it’s worth, I know you still love him. Bending down,

we’re alone, what’s left of him a lake you begin to drink.
         None of us can bring him back, but the way you shake,

I know you want to. The way the trucks sob on the freeway,
         I know they do too. Southbound, the town’s horses follow us

through pastures as if one of their own is coming home.
         And the churches plaguing the landscapes have fences

even more electric than the ones we pass. Each overgrown billboard
         begs me to know peace, though the truth is, there’s nothing inhumane

about this feeling: how the ivy is your hair. How there’s sugar in holding on.
         That there’s a devil inside me, but I’m breathing easy.

Body Roll

Mid-sentence, we’d almost died on the overpass,
         and part of me deserved it the way I’d raised my voice

at you. Behind us, the car seemed a rumor. Those days,
         none of us were good with second chances. I couldn’t touch you,

but not for lack of trying: you shook imperceptibly, almost hummed
         in your seat.  I figured it was the narrow miss we’d just avoided,

so I let you be, and we sat there alone on the banks of the road
         watching the tracer fire of cars threaten the space around us.

It was like nothing I’d ever imagined: you gripping the phone
like my head, hard, without any sort of pretense you knew

what you were doing. Me, a bullet in the chamber of the car,
         wanting you to say something. Whatever you could have

said never came. Only the blaze of your screen fading as your breathing
         grew slower. Wave after wave, your skin waned in the night

in that position sleeping bodies so perfectly assume, and I wondered
         if this was how it’d happen years from now, that this was a run through

of the day we’d meet our maker, ready or unready. And leaning over,
         wishing I’d been more gentle, I woke you without meaning to

and you were quiet, not believing it was really me there,
         an ultimatum waiting. I thought and then didn’t. My lips swerved

towards yours, saying, baby, letting myself go not unlike you had,
         kissing you an apology as the interstate grew wilder.




BIO: Dimitri McCloghry is a 2013 graduate of Flagler College in Saint Augustine, Florida, where he studied under poet Liz Robbins. Previous poems have been accepted by The Flagler Review, Common Ground Review, Oxford Magazine, Paperfinger Magazine, Studio One, Ellipsis, Permafrost, and are forthcoming in several others.