On a Back Road, an Abandoned Barn

No one knows how many years
it took for the oak to rise

like a mast through the hole.
Its roots sunk to the bedrock.

Here on this shallow plain
its shade drifts and ripples

full as a sail. Each time
the breeze pushes this wreck

deeper into weeds, a rafter
snaps like rigging.

Outside in the Dark

The black cow fits
like a puzzle piece
into the rest of the hill.

Hungry bug songs
playing from every leaf
draw this boy like a moth.

A car goes down
the snaking gravel road
like a light being swallowed.



The moment he hits my tire
his spirit bursts like pollen
and grains settle among the ditch weeds.
He will jump from here again.


Summer Intruder

First tools go missing in explanations of old ladies
moving stuff. Then it’s license plates unscrewed
from our cars and trucks, gone, a whodunit.
A week later, the cows are all out of the barn,
deep in alfalfa. Partial heel and zig-zag
treads turn up in mud. Two people?
Only one? Cops don’t know. Do you have enemies?
Anyone making threats? In the middle of the night
my stepdad goes outside with his shotgun,
fires five times straight up.
Someone’s spooked now, in the boxelders
behind the house. Someone crashing
through branches drops a flashlight, giving no clue.



Dirty uncle of the fork, cousin
to the gravedigger’s shovel,

it grins in my hands, filth
and straw in its teeth.

It’s not so old to have forgotten
steaks on china plates,

the flash of fork
in the knife blade

and all the good manners
of teeth and tongue.

I brandish its tines,
snake fears quivering

flank to flank.


~  ~  ~

Michael WalshMichael Walsh is the author of The Dirt Riddles, winner of the inaugural Miller Williams Prize in Poetry from the University of Arkansas Press as well as the 2011 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. His poetry chapbooks from Red Dragonfly Press include Adam Walking the Garden (2004) and Sleepwalks (2012). His short stories on rural queer life have appeared in Fiction on a Stick from Milkweed Editions and in Fiddleblack. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.