The Rockies

We drove our boat through the foot-shaped economy, canaline with first-name bases. Nicknames curved over the prow. They whistled, listened for a response, whistled. Or whispered directly into the grain. Can you believe how everything is talking to us she wrote across the red line intended for primary instruction. I studied the white space intended for illustration and considered my response. The ducks set their mouths in a line, then clapped and talked at our backs. Our craft moved down the canal as if guided by memory. Offline, we sifted through facts. Cord du roy, fustian, rus publicas we waited. For the turn we had passed a while back.

It would have to return. It was fully expected.

Lone photographer slots in, sticks his tongue into the groove. He was born for this, knows how to draw a welt. You give me the prose poems. His eye dilates. His eye flaps slow as a frog. I’ll give you a map to the water wells from here to the Texas boarder guards. I’ll make up the difference as a song and dance man with my thumb on the scales. The same lozenge hat can serve for both. The manywinged house will tilt over the landscape until you reverse the frame, and then it will taste the other way. Look on both seasons. Dishrags, fens. Was I dreaming as the blood left me or did I dream it into being. Is it cold or coal which makes it pure. Knuckled as the Rockies, perfect as the taste of punch in the mouth.

At root the prow was fiberglass, the grooves molded, and a gummy nylon dripped into the grooves. We toted a superfluity of paper in wads and wallets, but this paper was not cash. It was the letters and memoirs we would assemble into the journey. We proceeded like a log flume that had escaped its machinery, like a piece of making money tugged like a tooth from its grammar or flapped like a goose off the set. We floated our joke bond through the forest. I wrote that into the space. 


Joyelle McSweeney's second book, The Commandrine and Other Poems, was released last Fall from Fence Books. She teaches at the University of Alabama and writes regular reviews for the Constant Critic. She recently co-founded Action Books (, a new poetry and translation press.

More work by Joyelle McSweeney will appear in Tarpaulin Sky V3n3-4.