“And he will be a wild man;
his hand will be against every man
and every man’s hand against him.”

Genesis 16:12

by Dan Burt I

My father fished three days a week,
A maid helped mother clean and mend,
My brother’s hands stayed soft and weak
And I was sent to the cold with men.

Swaddled in white coat chin to uppers
I trained from twelve to butcher meat
And dress it on enamelled platters,
Fat tucked like toes under bound feet;
Played Philoctetes to fowl bones,
Saw blue line crawl my ulnar vein,
Hied septic blood to wards alone
For antidote to purge the stain;
Made green meat red with dye and grinding,
Saw cutting rooms break men by fifty;
Stood behind a dumpster pissing
To save time when we were busy.

No angels graced that wilderness,
No wells, no Hagar, no augur
Sifting offal who foretold success
Beyond cleaver and block; no wonder
Drug for a child’s mind gone tough,
No acne salve to hide the blush
When the father of a puppy love
Sniffed at the sawdust in my cuff.

Roots cankered past disinfection
I gave my back to home and nation,
Alien with alien vision,
Cancers present, though in remission.


A rusted ring bolt and long length of chain
Lie on the asphalt where a black dog prowls;
The hairless weal around its neck makes plain,
As well as spade ears, fangs, gun barrel snout
That this mailed compound long has been home.
Gates bear no warning; there’s no need to snarl;
Scarred skin, the rasp while gnawing at a bone
Guarantee junked cars in nearby piles
Rest undisturbed and rot alone.

Dan Burt

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