Average Speak

by Philip Schaefer

These days even my greatest failures are failing
me. I make coffee, love, a work bench, and it all hovers
between the impossible kingdoms of yes and maybe
next time. So I bury a bar of soap in the garden,
I dog on all fours with a red leash in my teeth, ready
for any stranger to master me. An old business
naming every bereft pleasure. The sound of a knuckle
cracking in the dark, the pupil of a blue whale’s eye
finding Antarctic sunlight for the first time.
There are ways of canceling oneself out, of biting
through blueberry pie until the fork’s hungry rake
takes what’s above the skin: thoughtlessness, bats
circling, blank polaroids, brain water. You can’t talk
about genocide without a few children in your hands.
You can’t kiss the stone wall of another man’s body
if your lips are made of sand. Today I will walk by a future
graveyard and pull out single strands of hair like loose
flowers until the entire neighborhood is bright and dead
and some warmness lifts me by the nape like a wolf pup.
What would you give? To be that small. That controllable.

Philip Schaefer’s debut collection Bad Summon (University of Utah Press, 2017) won the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and he’s the author of three chapbooks. He won the 2016 Meridian Editor’s Prize in poetry, and individual work is out in Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Thrush Poetry Journal, Guernica, The Cincinnati Review, Salt Hill, Bat City Review, The Adroit Journal, Baltimore Review, Redivider, and Passages North among others. He tends bar in Missoula, MT.