The Agonist Journal


A dowel just this side of Tinkertoy
glued to a field, fluorescent and
no bigger than a birthday card:
this is the flag my child holds
each time he crosses our street.

In the town where we live
some klatch of worried crafters
has fit each crosswalk nearby
an Elementary with twin bouquets
of flags, one bucket per corner.

In safety-vest orange and hazmat
yellow, a whole posy of ensigns
fans out, filling the pail my son squints into,

intent as the time he picked a meteoric fish
from a tankful of neons, its cousins—
one small, highlighted tetra
among the other fry.

These days, child-chided,
I cannot fetch a mis-kicked ball
except that I take a tatter stuck to a stick
with me in one hand. Of course I know
this urgency in his cry Flag!
was first mine. I know because

these days, I can’t watch him as he goes,
crossing the street with nothing more
than a frail standard in tow.

              My heart, he is armed
              only with colors
              and he flies them
              like he too could fly.

van Gogh’s Books

Less gently
used than the Bible
my grandparents thumbed
until its corners,
even its leather cover,

every one of van Gogh’s books
looks to have been dropped in the bath

or rolled by halves
like a script in the hands
of an actor
conning a harangue.

              How could it be otherwise?

In the asylum’s unraked lawn, bloodred scintilla.

Beside the road, a cypress built of velvet caveats.

Over liverish rooflines, skies all nautili,
and it is not just the stars—
each more spasm
than epicentric sun,
more ripple than centripetal

No, it is also the dark
rolling in on itself
as if night were the sum
of the furies or maybe
of their blue kiss curls.