Back to Issue Ten.

Human Aviary

BY PHILIP SCHAEFER

Instead of burying the shoebox, 
we take off our shirts and kiss
the ground. Again, the moths fly 
out, the gross wonder. We’re still young. 
Shaped by summer and its lesions.
We toe the line between field 
and sun until it’s light 
in our mouths.

I’ve picked up carving linnets in the attic 
of an abandoned house to hold onto 
something flightless. To be uncrushing. 
Outside, the wind curls talons 
from the ice near what used to be
a kitchen window. If you close your eyes 
you can smell the river from here. 

I remember us buying peppermints 
from the gas station outside Florence 
on our way to Chernobyl. Your tongue 
a radioactive stripe until we drove 
to the ocean where there was nothing left. 

Imagine this is still the late nineties.
The man scratched in rags on the bench 
behind the church drinking the ship 
right out of the bottle. On his back
he finally hears the angels’ light
breathing. They say nothing, which is:
I’ve been waiting for you my whole life.

 

 

Schaefer 10

Philip Schaefer’s collaborative chapbook with Jeff Whitney, Smoke Tones, is forthcoming from Phantom Limb (2015), and his poems are out or forthcoming in Forklift Ohio, DIAGRAM, Fourteen Hills, RHINO, alice blue, Interim, and Whiskey Island, among others. He can usually be found tending bar at the craft distillery in Missoula, where he recently received his MFA from the University of Montana.