I’d sleep until a rooster’s third encore,
go out back to stir mash and wet down
the burlap sacks full of corn
in the clawfoot tub. 3AM would drop by
and claim I owed him $40, as he had every day
of his life. I’d hand him a torn cigarette
and he would call us even.
If he had pissed himself the night before
I wouldn’t let him sit down. He’d stand as still
as a nail waiting to be driven home
in the coffin of a girl who fell from a tree
and became a pool of light
from which black chickens drink.


I’d sleep against the wall in the unemployment line
next to men who slit throats in another country
and now worry over the gun under
their pillow like a doe licking her infected hoof,
and others who wore their poverty
with Aztec stiffness, pockets stuffed with
pine needles instead of gloves.
I was there to take liquor orders.
They promised money they hadn’t made yet
and I promised them one idiot night
in which you can curse your children
or let your mouth hang open like a paper sack
or weep uncontrollably over the way your mother
in winter would allow the ewes inside
the house to work the clods of ice
out of their coats with her small fingers.


I’d sleep on the hood of the truck
while Trembles drank the moonshine
we were supposed to deliver to 3AM
but instead stayed up all night with Buzzboom
as he accused the American government
of usura, or at least the foreclosing mouthbreathers
at Vermillion Savings and Loan.
I came to drenched in mist
and realized there were two figures beside me,
they must have walked through twelve fields to get there,
two girls dressed in boy’s clothes, filthy,
skin the color of legal paper, huge eyes,
the larger one shaking me and saying, “Hey Mister,
this little girl wants to borrow your guitar.”

Author Image

Andrew Grace is the author of three books, most recently Sancta, published in 2012 by Ahsahta Press. Other sections of his manuscript-in-progress, titled The Last Will and Testament of Said Gun, are forthcoming or appear in the most recent issue of The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Missouri Review, Shenandoah, Poet Lore, and 32 Poems. He teaches at Kenyon College.

Feature image by David Linneweh. Re-Assembled Landscape (Pekin), 2012. Oil, acrylic and graphite on panel, 30 x 48 in. Courtesy the artist

Click on the image to enlarge.

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.