When my arms first grew firm I began to trust
myself to love someone outside my family.
I could lift another body off the ground
and throw it wherever I wanted. I could carry
a boy to a yard away from my yard
and what I did there was my own business.
Buried by the compost pile was a half-rotten stick
I could bend into a bow so I tied a string
from each end and taught myself to aim
by imagining whatever I stared at sat
very still. My arms grew because I lifted stones
from the boy’s family garden. No one needed
to tell me how to work. I uncoiled a hose
and threw a bevel from crack to crack
on the sidewalk to distinguish a cord of muscle
from my shoulders. Once, the boy came
to my house and I told him to watch me shoot
the tree with an arrow I carved from the lattice
on the deck. I held it out to him and imagined
his body becoming still. He stood behind
the tree so he could hear the wood cut
open or watch the arrow graze past him.
I saw myself growing. It was a safe time
for us to understand the sound of speed.


Author Image

Josh Kalscheur’s poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Slate, Boston Review, Blackbird, Witness, and Alaska Quarterly Review among others. He lives in Madison, WI where he teaches English at Madison College.

At Guernica, we’ve spent the last 15 years producing uncompromising journalism. 

More than 80% of our finances come from readers like you. And we’re constantly working to produce a magazine that deserves you—a magazine that is a platform for ideas fostering justice, equality, and civic action.

If you value Guernica’s role in this era of obfuscation, please donate.

Help us stay in the fight by giving here.