Feature image by Jay Heikes, Civilian (resting), 2008, Hand-dyed palladium print, 41 1/4 x 54 5/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York © Jay Heikes

If the nightcrawlers sing through the loam tonight will I join them

A boy who was born

with the blown out voice

of a legendary

backwoods catcaller

& built his fortune on the scalp of his Anna

in the podunk

vistas of nowhere

Will I join them the nightcrawlers

if they chew

through the soil & sing

& gasp for pink dew

& meat

like the wood that gasped through my pink when I started my teething

If they sing will she barb them my love in her eating dress

so schlank my Anna

married off

like a heath-dweller

& into the arms

of her reddleman

Can she hear them the fish hooks still ring

like our teens

when we were hated & ate our handful of worms like the song bragged

It’s the law

Rome told me

I was gassed next slung to a hinny next chased from town with my hands tied

I woke & was ancient

next gutshot

next slack

next saw

the tramps sleeping

in Bank of America

& dressing the sores in the heat the earth let escape her

It was a menagerie of tramps

like a handful of nightcrawlers

& dreaming they’re eating

themselves back inside her

But have you met my new love

the sylph

drunk like a war hero on armistice day & flaunting her Croix de guerre

She smells the song

the nachtmusik

I sing when I’m trying to touch her

& cracks her legs

her eyes for the sailors

“Her mound”

“She’s my lowing sinkhole”

His face that was armor it’s chinked like a cutting board

he sullies

my catwalk down Broadway

she lows

(love ignores love

ignores & goes


My inamorata the sylph in her crinoline skirt & her fishnets

I belong

in this Canyon of Heroes she lows

catcalled & flogged

like white meat

& hornswaggled

she hums to her mouthful of worms

Is this our spoils boys

for sacking Rome

I hum to my mouthful of worms

I was legendary

in my hey

in my pink

with my fortunes hung low for my Anna

You look at me now

I’m paler

than Ovid

& punching the earth with a trake & cleaning

your love from my hooks

like a dusting of misfired snow

& Anna the worms

can we join them the worms

who sang you off to your reddleman

& Anna your fortune

is your fortune

in Bank of America

& Anna the tramps

do you feed them your meat & your spoils

do you feed them the loam they dream they eat back inside you

& Anna the sores

tonight in your crinoline I see you dressing your sores

I see you cleaning my love from your trake

& Anna the nightcrawlers

we’re so far from our heath

& will we join the nightcrawlers beneath the gutshot columns of Rome

Danniel Schoonebeek

Danniel Schoonebeek’s first book of poems, American Barricade, was published by YesYes Books in 2014. It was named one of the year’s ten standout debuts by Poets & Writers and called “a groundbreaking first book that stands to influence the aesthetic disposition of its author’s generation” by Boston Review. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Poetry, Tin House, <emIowa Review, Fence, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, jubilat, and elsewhere. The recipient of awards and honors from Millay Colony, Poets House, Oregon State University, and the Akademie Schloss Solitude, he hosts the Hatchet Job reading series and edits the PEN Poetry Series. In 2015, Poor Claudia will release his second book, a travelogue called C’est la guerre.