BY COLBY COTTON
Blips of human heat suspended on a bomber’s screen—
red hands kneading skin into flame,
and what’s left is something ancient,
a hovel covered in dust with a high ringing
like a horseshoe pitched in the ear
and driven down the body,
something that slips through a keyhole
and peels back the feet, unlocks
the joints and stacks the self
at the window without so much as a boot print
leading to the bombed.
The unmanned drone lifts in Kandahar,
an albino dragonfly rising
in the light. Hundreds of miles away,
archaeologists uncover the hunter-gatherers’ last
movements, eating terrapin, placing a berry
on outstretched tongue. The dead
have known this feeling: the breaking apart
like grain with stone, the crumbling
of bread for millennia. And what do any of them say?
The reanimated skull in a bog
grows back in pixels on a screen,
here again if only to repeat, there’s more
below the parking lot. The child vanishes
from the aisles of clothes, the girl with packed bags
climbs into a truck on a highway
and what they tell us is simple. We disappear.
the carson boy
BY COLBY COTTON
A weed had grown through his shirt
by the time they found him.
He disappeared in winter, last seen
closing the door of his college apartment.
The Carson boy, as they’d come
to call him, drove two hours south
through the night and walked the train tracks
and fields that run along our town.
He let his truck idle off a back road,
puffing exhaust to snow, melting it,
until the engine, too, grew tired
and died there. That same night,
on Country Route 67, two cars would
collide head-on. Joe Woodard,
headlights on farm houses, road signs
and electric fence, on his way home
from the night shift at Dresser Rand,
drinking cheap coffee, rubbing sleep
from his eyes— the other, a blue van
full of teenagers with a booze-soaked
backseat, and a cranked up radio.
The course investigators later mapped
found the Carson boy must have walked
the field above the crash that night,
a fist of pines, ragged trees
behind him. He may have seen the two
fans of light collapse into each other,
sat on the crumbled curve
in the new black silence, the moon
silvered grass, and threw stones
at the wreckage. He may have kicked
the windows out and laid beside Tonya,
the volleyball captain, under stars
spread like salt across a table,
climbed down the embankment,
trudged farm runoff past grain silos
and wind turbines into the knee-deep
river, hands steadied by stone,
saw the sky in shards, and the bass
ripple through dark water.
And it was blamed on hypothermia.
The brain does strange things when afflicted.
That night, red and white lights
turned on snowy fields and twisted
metal. That night the water moccasin
weaved, silent through a crag of rock.
Buzzards, mothers woke
in the middle of the night
not knowing why, and how the mothers,
the town itself would come to that
question, why, again, and again.
Colby Cotton is from a small town in western New York. He is currently an MFA candidate at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he has held the Fred Chappell fellowship in poetry. His work appears or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, and The Missouri Review.
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