Two Poems

Poetry / Justin Phillip Reed

When I Had the Haint

Feeling that I needed to be beaten into stillness
ended where I knew it would: I slept in the shape
of a saint, palms upturned as if to blossom
gladly into wounds. Beyond the wall, wind lifted
from autumn’s languor a choir of foliage to pronounce
its epithets. Where, where. The litany was a wreath
of vultures circling, was a certainty I wanted
everything to do with.

                                        The dream thickened
and dropped where it rotted. In a swoop, a violence
the complexion of lichen buried my wrists beneath
its knees and sucked my gasp into a mouth more ancient
than burial. Had me knocking in my chest like an echo
in a log. Like the wings of a skein whose upset

the scum forgets in seconds: the hairs up off my flesh.

The Odyssey

              O Muse—
Boy is loam, is what is shoveled out of always.
Leaving himself he shoves his way into clean.

Boy becomes the telos in the throat of an abyss
that til the day a man dies he dives down.

              A Blasphemy
Man is a misnomer. Boy is a saccharine impasse
against which I dash my carriage daily at a run.

Man: the lash and mast. I hear my name forever is
Boy, but I was born Lil Man, adorned with a mane

of breakage tactics, an aureole of mandates such as
rival whom, conquer when, grieve where, This Do In

Remembrance of Me, all meant to overgrow my face
still pliable as unfired clay. Boy—a barbless noun

              a Penance
to signify the promise of hooks, a brief peace
preceding the snag, swerve, jerk, and swoon.

I gasp, emergent, and man up. I verb hardly, pose
beneath a knife stained clot-brown in its renown.

a man is a privacy of severances, a pulp of these
violet coagulates. I mean to elude my own

cynicism by sucking in breath. I mean that loss,
the commotion, limbs boys into torsos called men.

              O Death—
despite a man, a sigh. Days I wish boy dead. I moan
the seed inside this wound for which I am a dress.

Justin Phillip Reed’s first full-length collection of poetry, Indecency, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2018. His poetry will soon appear in Breakwater Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Washington Square Review. Justin lives in St. Louis.