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December 10, 2015 / barton smock

(dreams my dreams were having)


reading to the kids:

~ This Is Really Happening

A brother and a sister lived together in a treehouse and, because they were orphans, they called the treehouse an orphanage. From the treehouse, they could jump safely into a pond without making much noise. When they were bored, which was most of the time, they would pretend they were tadpoles trapped in a spaceship. One day, brother orphan found a black fly as big as his head. The fly was so big its little wings couldn’t lift it. Brother had no idea how the fly got so big but he didn’t want to seem dumb so he told his sister the fly had swallowed a frog. He also told her that the frog it had swallowed was actually a young time machine that they needed to pull out of the fly so it could grow old. As he told her this, the frog he had made up crawled on its own from the fly and the fly zigzagged like a deflated balloon and disappeared. The orphans took the frog as their pet and it grew and grew to a size big enough for both of them to fit in its mouth. The two began sleeping in the mouth of the frog, which was good, because soon a storm came and felled the tree their treehouse was in. It made them sad to be orphans without an orphanage but the sister was not hopeless because she still believed the frog was a time machine. When her brother went swimming in the pond and went under and didn’t come back up, she believed he’d gone to the future. When his shoes floated to her as she gazed at herself in the water, she believed he would have to come back for them. She waited with the frog and pretended her hand was a ray gun that could only stun babies that weren’t born yet. She felt so bad about stunning the babies with the ray gun that she began walking on her hands and one day walked so far she couldn’t find her way back to the pond or to the frog. Her worrying tired her so that she fell asleep and when she couldn’t sleep anymore she heard sounds that reminded her of sadness coming from the stomachs of the old people she now knew surrounded her. She stood upright and tried to talk the old people into being quiet but she realized they had no memories of being children so she pretended she had been their mother and told them stories of the funny ways they’d been in trouble. Because she wanted to be a good mother, she didn’t mention the time machine.

~ Peaceable Sibling

The boy lived in a town by himself. Because he didn’t know his own name, he did not name the town. The town had one street that circled the town and there were no houses, no buildings. The boy was never hungry, and if he was, he’d never been hungry enough to know it. He was thirsty often and, because he’d had a dream about his body being full of water, he’d spit in his hand and open it to the sun when the sun was out and then he’d drink the warm spit. He was not afraid to leave the town but still he did not leave it. Perhaps he was its bravery.

~ Bruises

Zen was a boy of nine years whose sister of fifteen beat him nightly. When she would do this, it would be during bouts of sleepwalking that began when she, too, was nine. Her name was Beam, and he loved her and she loved him when both were awake. When both were awake, they would count the bruises on his body and see if their numbers were the highest they’d ever been. Zen did not tell Beam she was his abuser and Beam promised to find out. This presented a problem as Beam, no matter how hard she tried, could not stay awake long enough to catch the person she didn’t know she was. She would’ve asked her parents to keep watch, but Zen would not let her, saying he was worried that if the person was identified he or she may start beating someone else. So they counted bruises, and continued on in love. Zen is now a boy of fifteen and Beam went missing three years ago. Every morning, Zen looks over his spotless body and prays he too will be kidnapped by gentle aliens who cannot hurt their own but want to.


reading away from the kids: 

~ accident

when mine stopped
your sadness
was still


~ cirque

made not
into a fisher
of men
my father
pushed off
in the little boat
of his wound-

so filled
the weeping bowl
of my mouth.

~ remote

dogs, here, they parrot
the passing
and trucks
pull nightly

~ alike

when we fell
in love
on this bench, we couldn’t
talk about it: the house

with an oven. the bread inside

our habit
of eating.

~ lure

saw it
first, the fire.

to my friend
that boat

is coming.

we had time
to cross
our lines
and curse.

a black room
set sail
it seemed
from some house
we might’ve
been in. I am sleeping

he says
with your wife. tomorrow
at a party
my son
will bite
clean through
his son’s

when I tell this story
to others

a man
from the boat.

we save him.

~ an early baby knows to cry

a mime
your thumb
with the face
of a quiet

~ baby feet

a second

you couldn’t
have known

on the first

~ to those who have longer lived

I shot, one summer, both my hands at my brother.
the tree he climbed was the most realistic tree
he could find
in that city

and I
missed him.

~ dear you

I am at a word
for loss

~ by porchlight

a man did nothing
but care
for a moth.

if need be, he’d cup it
to the mouth
of a neighbor’s
gone lame
in its grey
little heart.

~ the unwed

the dream
you were having-

out there
having you.

~ men on leave

at the post
of self
from which none
are relieved

~ missing

she wore
one white sock-

a night light
in that hotel’s

~ peacekeeper

it is for
the sake
of my mother’s

that I
am named.

I know only
the most
of his life:
that he drowned.

a kind
great uncle
I imagine
he would’ve been
to my sons.

of his wild
in houseless

whenever I hold my breath
my brothers fight.

~ your actual, your bad, heart

when late
in life
on a porch

you cannot hear
the sirens
going off
in the town
of your birth-

be patient
for what the hound

~ remission (after father)

by absence
his body
a truant hobby
by career

my father
built himself
a darkroom
where he’d often
to adjust
the variances
of a single

to pace
as perfectly
as the many

he was wont
to follow
with a great
and private

~ dear god

dear god
I will fight you
or anyone
for the title
of this poem.

I will fight you for my son.

I will fight you
or anyone
who drops him
in the ocean

who circles back
to save him.

~ photo

my mother
she stands
four boys

her smile
in each

like any photo
with my brothers
and I
it engenders

some to say
she was cursed

I see it now

the ghost
of my camera shy

~ I worry about you

so often we voice
our want
to turn off
the brain

when in truth
we desire
the brain
to momentarily

that the film
in front of us
can quietly

go about
in the dark

~ expanse

I have a friend whose father, though imaginary, was able to get work driving a cab in the country parts of Ohio. if I close my eyes I can see my own father lost in some wooded area naked and wearing a cape. the cape is deep red and my friend is female. when my mother reads me a book without pictures I can tell when she’s rewording the phrases she finds plain. how she reads ahead while reading aloud is something I hope to one day mimic. I do worry about the books I claim to know as perhaps there is a sadness in them that remains untouched. plain things are often sad things. I would ask which causes which but for the unlimited amount of time we have left.

~ praise act

you pull a reddish pup like a sled through a town that surrounds you.

I think you are my brother but more importantly you think I am yours.

you feel not like yourself but like a tooth you belong to.

up ahead, we work together.

I pop myself in the mouth with our father to achieve a crisis of no faith.

our father?

he is made mostly of the words that display my words.

~ children in the morning

having occurred
from natural

by two

and still others
whose first memory
is not


~ as one might overhear

he built a church
from the nothing
around it.

not all
have a disabled child
to write about.

he built a church
from the nothing
around it.

~ melancholy daughters

nostalgia’s book of mug shots.

murderers mistaking boredom for regret.

the dwindling league of hesitant fathers
struggling to stay
in formation.

paroled amnesiacs
last seen
by this

~ when you are a child in a war zone

be the still

~ my mother’s singing voice

a donated pillowcase
made into seven washrags
one for each
church window

~ my father’s singing voice

an abandoned dog
on a weekday
shops its grief
from homeless man
to homeless

under threat
of lightning

where else

~ to my sons who wish me home

the bread crumbs
were eaten
not by birds
but by a starving
with a lost voice
who’d wandered
from his home
in a delirium
brought on
by a toothache

~ I tell my children it’s okay to be lonely

with the knowledge
of being

a man stood
in an Ohio

feeling passed over
like a horse’s

and was hit
in the head
by a pebble
as a stray

now, no matter
if he rubbed
the pebble or his head

he was not given
three wishes
but three
people to forgive

and chose

~ dear infant

your decoy’s

~ collapse

on a clear day
my father
is the face
of absence.

how what I mean
cuts the finger

my mother

how porch blood
is not the same blood
the body
faints with.

how copperhead, how rattlesnake, how lisp

says I myth
my sister
who is still

to shoplift

from the thunderstorm
we gave her.

~ clear heads

while smoking a cigar in the shadow of a nervous minotaur, my father wrote the book on moral isolation. in it, he predicted there would be a television show about hoarders and that it would turn god into a sign from god. my mother read the book cover to cover during her fourth and fastest delivery. if there were edits, she kept them to herself and put his name beside hers on seasonally produced slim volumes of absolute shyness.

~ debut

the mechanics of the beheading begin in isolation.

exiled from what it bumps into, a form
for scarecrow.

my mother’s dream doesn’t burn.

~ end psalm

god had an earache and I heard thunder. I learned to shrink into the smallness of my brain. I associated money with my father’s funny bone. my mother with the dual church of hide and seek. I went on to have a son with special needs. he cried once. cried milk.

~ boy and gun

it entered my heart
to take a bird
from the world.
I felt nothing.

the recent absence
of nothing.

~ lost

the better part
of isolation

fact checking
his father’s

~ childlike answer

I am made mostly of trying to find my way back to bread

~ host

as I wait for what this painting reminds me of, a stickman with a short straw works my mother’s head injury into his teleplay of snowfall and crow. asleep, you must be in the ambulance outside my father’s church.

~ embrace

the girl who cries wolf
cries wolf
to three men
whose sons
are dead

~ you

are now’s


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