Nathan Slinker


After the snows and large predators are gone,

girls shed their husks in the railcar. What’s a little tongue blood

as she covers your body in rural oil? — an ache inside a mountain

calling her name. Some things come back each year and

some don’t. There’s Sal — I’ll never see him again,

and Angela. And the wolverine with her pale stripe.

Dear dead dragonfly whose thousand wings sunspot my skin,

I’ve stacked my tears into cairns, dried them with your dust.


We’ve all heard the flowers wilding in cattle pastures,

seen the paints at New England Ranch, thanked the mill

where this forest splits into board-feet.

At the edge of town, they’re boxing up the graduates,

they’re having a cake raffle and charity choir concert —

but the mill, my god, the mill still smells sweet as surgery.

This is reality; I’m fine with it. At twenty-nine,

I’m reaching into the holiness of my past like a midwife.


The engineer brings his smallish engine to the door:

turn this on and forget to breathe.

The scientist brings her little pill to the door: swallow this

and forget your meals.

The neighbor’s dog comes to the door

and barks and barks until the man’s hungry

and out of breath

from running the numbers through shit-smeared cattle chutes.


From a room with pine-scented pine beams in a house

with blinds of peony blossom, I look outside to bucolic ranches,

forested hills — beauty seen through simulacra of beauty,

but all rendered a bit too darkly: appaloosa and bay

rolling around in the neighbor’s appliance-white trash;

on the highway, classic cars with blood-dappled fenders.

Well, somewhere a famous orator at an oak podium

says something about looking closely at something.


I slept through my twenties on a grassy hillock. I lolled

on the great tongue, and I fed while being fed upon

like any other animal. I was made into sound. Then my sound-self

regained physicality, like the trumpet in a resting measure.

O! Bloody chorus chained to the bone stage,

please be intensely quiet, then steadily crescendo.

Ah! My lovely whip, bit, and branding iron, tell me:

what’s the strangest music in the human body?

about the author