Six Poems from Leafmold: F. Daniel Rzicznek

Poetry: F. Daniel Rzicznek

from Leafmold

The purpose of fishing is to get healthy. Why I dream and dream of oral thrush is beside any point. A gray-templed monk knelt and swept the colored sands away with one stroke. I could see a man dancing, bleeding, chanting beneath dimmed light and I immediately had a seizure and worst of all spilt the-waters-of-bong! While the boat hurries over the horizon’s bent ledge, growing brighter, I wake within museum displays taking notes in red ink in bed with you. If anything, it’s a more peaceful war we want. The last day of June. Where nothing happens. I water the rosemary—(a raft of flowery smoke). I neglect to water the chives. Yes, we keep lavender. I water the lavender. (Someone’s Collected Poems dropped squarely on my foot.) I water the sage. A good head of steam now—a rage. A Saturday. Every day that passes alters the microtempo, small, slow, and low. All the days mashed make a measure, or so. I’ve avoided the word “decay” for so long, it’s become a heavy anthem. My noise is detailed, symmetrically so, pummeled to powder by pure force. The lantern tips above the bow. A taut line screeches at the dark.

Whenever dinner starts at nine-thirty in the morning I grow genuinely confused. I cannot get enough air, enough light. I cannot get enough sand or shrubs, not enough mosquitoes and palmettos. Existence at Deck Chair University subsists on blood-in-the-water and your-tired-your-poor-your-huddled. They sold beer by the yard there and the Belarusian waitress wasn’t quick enough to keep us satisfied, our table of ten barking requests as she would flit past, the thick smile bobbing on that worried chin. A carload of books came back with us. Cross out the Fourth of July. In this very small city, no one walks barefoot. Mallards or crickets? Those who choose sides run straight home and apologize. A melodic disease. Words written in blue (while steering): The queen woke in her round cell of lox, tame and unknotted in the noon, final as an unclaimed negative. The cronies down the hall make commotions, hunting for the manager who can make all of this right. I wrap my jaw with muggy agave. Very hot here. Stay away.

Dear Chris, Dear Amy: this voice arrives in the shape of an antler—no other way to put it. I froze in my sleep last night, waking exhausted with no idea why. The season requires an accident: You look like someone who works for a living—someone who leads a life of rigorous dishonesty. That’s just God crashing the feast with his fork of lightning, and look now the minotaur is terrified of a croaking heron! A stranger lands on the neon balcony—footprints of oxygen, men in suits with megaphones. I was embarrassed. The island takes minds and fixes them on gulls, diesel, powdered doughnuts. A part of home: goodbye we say to our friends who are moving seven hours away—water hits the floor, assassinates a minor conglomerate of dust; a light over the front porch, an absence at the periphery of illumination—a source distanced, like having to swim to the library. I crossed something out! Look what we got for you … Start with compassion among the sloughs, redbirds pecking at nails on fenceposts, ghost of redbirds positing nests in the afterworld. But here, we remain: the clouds are themselves and the river keeps moving.

Dear Amanda: you are about to walk into the room and take my photograph. You are still about to walk into the room. It has not happened yet. It still has not happened. I’m still waiting. Now, it is happening. I look at you. I look at you again—can it be different? The mountain casts its shadow—a glance of sorts, a casting forward of direction. I’ve looked at you again. Adjustments—pauses—the candle brightening, a drone in the flow of each vein, widening across the times we’ve directed one another. Put your head down a little bit. You are standing on one of our green chairs, barefoot, ruddy as the day they plucked you from the red meadow. Myth is a lens—an occasion for remorse and enthralled detachment. Stay right there until I say don’t stay there anymore. The wave rides you—hats floating on clouds, a whale’s breach becomes the momentary foundation of a spectral empire, a kingdom of ovum and sperm, a bridge with no here, no there. This is killing us, isn’t it? It is happening and happening—a capturing: an ebullience.

Today: rosiness, minimal errands, maximum couch-sloth. The day crept as I slept, crept in its sleep toward our ancient, less than cogent neighbor clapping hands when his ancient mower turned, finally, over. Derision! The squares of the rug are many-colored, faded to match the sky, chipped from the years. I’ve relearned melodrama and narcissism, watched a great cushion of smoke billow up from the valley, heard settlers cry, heard the expansion of the self balk and stall. Joyous derision! Around that same time we were passing through the area and couldn’t remember the new names. That’s how often we had traveled there. Among the pleasure boats a barge would be seen, the stoned lights of the big ones drilling woods and beach where we sobered. Sank derision for an anchor. Rosiness, too. They said I would wake to five hundred kayaks, but it was an empty river. The pattern we tread into our floor resembles a pretzel—the music pretzeling in our ears, the strings of words twisting and gently folding, pretzeled in the good dome of the brain. We grip the table like it might go under. We sleep a tight sleep.

A new subject presents itself as necessary: sculpture: winged and sailing into high reeds, headfirst into smartgrass, half-finished and flailing at an island’s scrubby edge, head down scrambling after consciousness in two feet of marsh, falling from a great height and hearing bones break, taken sideways and expiring midflight, jumped and catapulted into oblivion, chased and decapitated, roasted to precise pink hues, blood charging to the surface, a wet road cloud-lit, a hound in the wayback, a song in the ears, tea on the tongue, birds in the bowels. An ear looks down from a tower—the owl’s universe fits no human metaphor. I hate shitty blues guitar solos—indulgent, prowling, obnoxiously self-aware, some organgrinder’s fallow dream. Try to let go. I stretch a shoulder—the other: neck feels like a grain elevator. Neck feels like an implosion. I tell you now, it was after. This is the moment again in which I’ve found you, dear saints of grammar and headlong cooked on spits after having been plucked and emptied, deadheaded among the burrs, a cormorant’s skeleton glaring back..

F. Daniel Rzicznek’s collections and chapbooks of poetry include Nag Champa in the Rain (Orange Monkey Publishing, 2014), Vine River Hermitage (Cooper Dillon Books, 2011), Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2009), Neck of the World (Utah State University Press, 2007), and Cloud Tablets (Kent State University Press, 2006). His individual poems have appeared in Boston Review, The New Republic, Orion, Mississippi Review, Shenandoah, Notre Dame Review, and many other publications. Also co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press, 2010), Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Photo credit: Miles Flansburg,

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