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February 1, 2017 / barton smock


have discontinued my October 2015 collection, {Drone & Chickenhouse}. it is below, in full. I’m okay that this might not be.


[the omens]

to the rabbit
he can’t bring himself
to shoot
in the foot
the boy
with a sore thumb

whose mother
wrote the book
on book
burnings, whose father
a scarecrow
as scarce



in hindsight
of course
the omens
are coming


[tear gas]

the creature
that was to carry
in its belly
the lord’s

could’ve been
the horse
our mother
into a crowd. the creature

that was to kill itself
in our father’s

could’ve been the giraffe
we knew
as crucifixion.

the creature that was to groom
for our

a stone

could’ve been
the ape
that buried
our dog
in television. the creature

that was
to embody

could’ve been the snake
we bathed
in a bug spray
that would hypnotize



are now’s


[hyperactive sons]

birth mothers
the word
of god.

from this point on, I am not dead.

is this
how I sound
to water
that beneath
a rabid
two sisters
a leech?

is to
the father’s
what melancholy
to sorrow. would that one’s

could be


[as for the snake, it will be stuck smiling]

mother is in the zone. is writing a birth scene for a specific kind of person. she has this window she’s named god’s narrow. my only job is to leave my father alone. I am allowed one imaginary friend as long as it’s a boy when I share it with my brother. it keeps getting sick from being around other kids my age. when I catch a snake I tell it satan had to worry about being you first. I hear
almost nothing because I want the voice to be perfect. it will say I had, quite by accident, become evil or it will say finish your bathwater.



god has gathered the disabled to make his case against reincarnation

unable to sleep, I become an alcoholic

I prefer
like my father
my insects


insomnia is the insect my scar becomes

noggin, mouth-hole, skinflick

a ghost
when I study



the father touches down to draw squares for hopscotch. every photo is a photo of silence. the mother, for the weird kid in her sunday school class, is sewing one sock puppet to another. it’s a lonely job but no one has to do it. the neighbor has just borrowed a hacksaw and, earlier, a box of cake mix. her brother is the boy all have heard explain how insects are sailboats. as for the babies, they’ve been put on suicide watch for the actions of a single lookout. how nearness, love.



as children
we adopt
certain forms
of adaptation.

as lovers, always
an item
from owning
a pawn shop.

as adults
of parental
we become
our parents
those veterans

of apparition




is the angel
to coma


dearest disabled,

we’re not here
long enough
for god
to do
the damage
he needs
to survive


this rabbit hole
we’ll use it
for the shadow’s



blood starts in the nose.

my body is on other things.

is to boy
what taste
is to tongue.

her go-to
for hangman
is god.

eat little, not less.


[wolf, wolf, god]

her plane is in the air. she is showing late signs of believing she’s left an octopus in the oven. the man she is with knows nothing about paper. on the ground, in awe of the bee stings on a sister’s bare back, a brother carries orphanhood to term. everything I touch belongs to the same alarm clock.



not all of us could be born

the rock

won’t leave
my mouth

mother eats with her hands


makes father
go weak
at the knees



I started smoking in my early thirties because I missed my brothers. because a train is the only thing I can act like I’ve seen before. because a claw opened and a child dropped. because unhurt the child was a girl and injured it was a boy made of being touched. because giant birds were stoned to give other people rain. because all hail, as all do, location. because riot then riot envy. because bright spot became a cloth in a police car. because I can’t sleep and couldn’t without thinking of sleep as a copy of a copy. because lost the baby wasn’t getting any younger. because nightlight and tadpole, mom and dad.


[to Mary Ann on birthday 17]

and to this day
you reappear
as if
you were born
to vanish
like you never



brother drinks water enough to shock the devil. on the inside, he’s all doll. I shake him for show might our sisters travel in pairs. I used to talk but had to close my mouth when the soft spot on his head kept my mother from her toes. it’s the second stone that really lands.



in this context, we are rednecks for free association. we worship the male witness of the bone burying dog. we wander from working televisions to say amen and to call it typical the baby’s behavior. god is a perfectionist. fasting a weight class. we have each of us a bad hand briefly that drops a baseball. our bald spots pass as bite marks beneath squirrels in the priesthood of sleep. there’s meat but we’ve had better.



you’re part of a story you don’t have to tell.

the animals that took your feet are dead now.

my boy
pushed your boy
into something
we thought
we’d outgrow.

mittens on

it’s time
to eat.



I made for an action figure a family tree. my mother came apart in the doctor’s hands. my smallness entered the smallness of my god. a side effect of facial recognition.


[deep scene]

speech itself is a failed translation

dreaming is a farm

a mother
makes it as far
as mailbox

to fish
there’s water
in the water

is, today’s mousetrap




god’s gift to god is all boy. is doomed to repeat melancholy in real time. is punching his erection. is trying your hand at territorial absence. is not feeling it on the day of the mime’s vigil. is bombed. is local. is thought to have opened the book of sticks. is not swallowing. is eating from the angel’s dream the only fish that can stop at nothing.



no trick to being poor.

the beauty of our entire football team
with the same


that of mother
that she can feel
god’s head
every hair
on hers. I can hear

my dreams

the soundman’s
in my brother’s
ear. never

did I have
an idea

to me.


[existence gospel]

the quiet woman mothers a silence gone rogue

and names
her kid
to death



don’t talk to babies. write. write to be the first one there. the frostbitten woman sucking her thumb has all her teeth. walk once a week into the wrong bathroom. worry. bump around the house at night. noisemaker. a depressed elephant in a walrus graveyard. pull. pull from your habit forming past. be the bomb god’s yet to wear. surround with others the baseball bat signed by the last woman to mourn sleeping beauty. open your mouth then look at your son. call it photography. if spotted, be a monster.


[mother on earth]

how horrible it must be for god to know he can read.

we’ll take them all,
these animals of disabled children.



my mother speaks
to those
I silence
in tongues. confesses

she is not
an animal
person. when drunk, she knows

to push
to the right
the stroke
newborn. as a word

is a man’s
word. as a thought

it’s a keeper. if one asks

where one
beats a dog
I answer

in front of children. it’s the question

leaves a mark
on the heart.



the voided twin
created for duplication
trying to eat alone

our food
the same

its touching

still intact



waiting for dad to burn off. for mom
to send
in my direction
a phrase
not unlike

keep on
your ghost
warm. for brother’s


for dog. for the hand

to open.

for the asker
of this:

who would want
two hours
of a life

is a form
of waiting.



the childish
of loss
than we’ve ever



the anxious god of my brother’s mirror

to me
don’t grow
on trees.

it can’t all be nonsense.

shoes are being made
for the born.

no one
was fooled
by your
suicide. more and more
I am more
than the baby

machine. we touch



[pain dogmas]

stick people
their hands
are lonely
at the same

in my son’s stomach
is something
from your seashell

no matter how much I touch him
he’ll be touched
more, it is not real

but it is
the christ



to slow the scarring of god, the man spits into a can plucked from the river that washed his hair.

to hasten

the woman
her mirror’s



I play my father as a man terrified I’ll return



the second machine
though equally


our understanding
of the first. mother


the dinner table
that doubled
as the operating.


[the door to the museum’s gift shop]

I was alone
with the baby
when the baby
said god


[immunization theory]


the only nightmare my parents remember me having was immediately traced to my prolonged exposure to a select group of schoolchildren I’d bloodied for how they spoke to god.


the bus rides lasted long enough for me to cultivate the belief that no being is brought into the world.


drought’s teacher paddled me into reciting a prayer from a ghost town’s chalkboard.


father protected me by saying there’s a word for how you feel. he was a writer because asemic writing had yet to occur in the randomly evil. abuse was a star.



if his ears can hear one thing
how does he know it’s god
how does she know
there are two



I can trigger
in my sleep
the beauty
I’m made
to return



Q: what do crows eat?
A: they don’t.
Q: do they eat stars?

a fight with my brother

when it’s my turn
to fake
my life

as a language, our food spoils

or mother
the same

where does my tongue die?


[on earth as it is in headgear]

mother in mouse slippers sees a rainbow and burns the bread. fucking rainbow was hunger before someone tried to erase it. I am not god but I do have insomnia. mother can do in her madness what most can in sleep. father hollers at a soldier suffering from memory gain. I throw baby brother’s rattle over a moving tank.

count for the dead their black sheep.



for the error
of the foot
the feet
are punished.

the ears
but nothing

one hand
is a hand, the other

the hand’s


[an angel of a man wearing only a bra]

in awe
of my father
in awe
is habit

forming. I want

my fingernails




I am reading
the book
that keeps me
from palm

during your pregnancy
an interactive
an alternate
for the witness
to eat

I liked
your poem
the panther’s



the baby was found, after the fire, alive and well in the oven. god showed his face until, again, the world made him hungry. at the time, the painter of babies was a baby herself. her brother had been dropped long ago by a man reaching for a foul ball.

the sweet tooth’s bible was putting blood on a napkin.

you want grief that is a seashell of grief.



the words have left me. as for shaken baby
syndrome, you gave

that shit
to yourself.

wild goose, reappear

is what I would say
to the wild goose.

the last copy of mama’s

the copy
that makes


[one piece] for Noah

I can’t tell my brother how his amnesia has given him a second chance at life. his kid is a real shit. so’s mine. still, there’s not enough here for it to have all been a dream.


[leave the church, leave the church I’m in]

I was your mother. on television, one could see what other televisions were watching. I tried to tell your father you wanted a bird stuck in a frog’s body. that a sleepy afternoon is the poor man’s insomnia. he hated that I wrote down your thoughts on thoughts. by the time you get them back, you’re someone else.


[dark spots]

someone is kissing the top of my head. the garbage disposal is a thunderstorm that’s taken my tooth. the woman who introduced a kitten to a cat named birdbath is painting my fingernails white while the man she’s admonished for pacing is warning me about using a hand for a pillow. came all this way

did the raindrop
to highlight
a stone.



tonight, I stole two beers from my brother

two gods
whose vexations
a city

I am still not sure
what I’ve requested

or sanctuary

I don’t pray

I read a book to see a man do nothing

to see a man do nothing to a woman
I volunteer
for sleep
and read
this back

to the lord


[today my scarecrow was a chat room]

a spider can take its home to heaven

it is my goal
to be sicker

than my son

have the baby
to be had


[drone & chickenhouse]

I am at my skinniest

it wasn’t my dog
put the rabbit
from its mouth
in its mouth

I was lonely
from seeing



[the god question]

I wouldn’t worry. I myself didn’t walk until I’d put everything on the floor in my mouth. even then, my right leg would sometimes fill with my left. dad would warn me about bumping my head and mom would remind me to make him hungry. anyway, I told your kid I don’t know how to read but the truth is reading makes me want to see two women fight. I blame my brother. some people have the attention span of satan.



mothers compare notes on hostage etiquette. fathers break bread over the disputed anniversary of god’s body language. brothers in bear costumes collapse. sisters convince matching tattoos to befriend the same fingerprint. you hold your baby. want me to drop mine.



smearing mud on her tits to cool the baby.

to burn

like a scar, some father
the same



I either have to kill my father or keep loving him. a friend of my brother’s says she can get me cigarettes, a knife, and two cans of beer. says her own father was a doctor up until he delivered a baby with a serial number tattooed on its arm. she doesn’t know what her father does now. her mother is in the dark. her mother is obsessed with the three the disciple lied to. people want me to back up but a man is never the same sadness. define people.


[ghost reunion]

the bomb
went off
and went off

at birth
a mouth
is born

I keep
popping up
in their pictures



not one thing
has the devil
made a satellite



word gets around
the schoolyard
pretty quick
that my father
drove his body
off a cliff
so god
would have a nail
hot enough
to touch.

I have a tooth
can make it


[small ones]

loss goes unnoticed.

I made for you
a scarecrow
from the textbook
of a midwestern
as lightning
took a step
from the baby
I crawled

not memorably


[grace period]

language keeps us from understanding the world.

spoken, it is god finding god.
spoken, it is the white male


writing his father
of this thing
that’s a thing-

infant wrestling as a cure for road rage.


[the scalps]

as my mother took up the inquiry into what had died, I was made god. father pretended to be my penis and praised me for putting him in good hands. my sister gave birth to a very large head. what’s the first thing a baby does with its body?



I carry the brain that is bomb in a timeless infant.

the future repeats nothing.


[creating monsters for the god I didn’t skip]

if I had an animal
I’d poke it awake
and cut myself
in front
of your mother’s



a rattlesnake is my kind of dog. it takes a phrase like this for my father to start talking. his hammer misses his finger and hits a nail. shit gets done. his many wives run into each other so he can hear them being deaf. if the dog becomes ill, my father has it all worked out how I’ll have to explain to some know nothing the right way to put it down. sleep is satan without god.



in orange
the brains
they bless
the trash…

what nothing
you haven’t

the hand-me-down
that cocoons
in some
what cottons
to others

the money
of angels


[the end of backstory]

he drops a knife in her lap and calls her a butcher. it is beyond cute

the way his stomach
a third
fist. her cigarette

is a portal
takes her
to the baby
can suck

the air
from a room.



the language
I use
to warn
my voice



the contact high I get from sleep. an illness

that comes
and goes.



has only
the followers
it takes
from melancholy. a dog

a dot
of a dog
see it
the secret



infant boy, god gave your body all the bone it can hide.

bite me
when your teeth
are hot.


[I have]

a disabled

and the chance
to destroy
my body


[the end of fiction]

as long as others
have food
there is grief
to imagine

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