Two Poems by Zach Mueller

Broke Bottles, Gold Models

There’s no sign saying
choke saltwater
drowning, but that’s
how it happens—the absence
of a sign. The thing
is what it is.
Let’s be honest.
You should gulp it
like strangers eye-fucking
a bank teller.
See how honestly
our throats reject quartz
and feldspar as though
we abominate
islands
with our lips. Don’t encourage.
Don’t hang it up on a fishhook.
These ghost crabs
fear flashlights
because sunlight is presence.
So some of us just want
to be left alone
with our whereabouts.                        It’s true. I’m not
twenty-two anymore, like asking
water how it drowns.
I’m not asking

the throat of what mouth
could speak
like a shoulder
to the beach,
but it sings

like a nearsighted girl
chasing minnows
and slicing her feet
in the moonlight.

It’s not like I’m only just now thinking
about this—
how big it all is,
I mean, compared
to a shark’s tooth.

But it’s like           we all melted,
and here it is: water-ski.
String it up
and wear it

like a wetsuit
except it’s coming
and going and it leaves
everything but the muscles.

You could keep calling it
gold, fumbling around out
under the stars—but it’s mica.

This isn’t a goldmine,
but we’re open to metaphor.
The people
are landlocked
and dry-humping for it.

They yell:
Where’s your star?
Where’s your altar?
Where’s your heart?
Where’s your trashiness?
The cops say,
shining flashlights
in our faces.
They’re not cops.
They’re arrested.
They’re your feet and you’re walking.
They light up
galaxies
in the sand. It isn’t
really a mission. It doesn’t go
according to scripture. That’s why
we can’t drink out here
because obviously
you just can’t.

There’s nothing
wrong with that
as if nothing
would drown itself.
This fruit is a flesh and it’s shore
dissolves like a salt shaker.
Eat it. Contain it—
bring back our bodies.

 

Reinventing the Garden

I would be trash
the place no cars are parked
a sign saying
no cars are parked
as if the chain-links indicated

sound in splattered stereo,
arms tearing at asphalt
as if jackhammers
chewing paper into sand.
You came to the room floating

oranges, paper cranes
breaking as if this is skin
to the touch, or the soil
is romance
is science—

dried leaves
is carbon, is a homecoming,
and we language like fire:
as if this spring is this spring
as if this spring

left us wading in plain sight.
In boxcars, in parking lots
in empty parking
places—an empty space
where our character

develops into drinking water,
slightly. The soft taste
leaves boundaries
between us—an ankle of shame.
The grass of all our cities

laid before us, before birds—basil
before the smell
of basil. Before breath, before you
say glass, we break-in through a window
drawing keys from our flesh.

 

 

***

Zach Mueller is a PhD student, Othmer Fellow, and Associate Coordinator at the University of Nebraska’s Creative Writing Program, where he studies poetry and critical theory and teaches creative writing and literature. He holds an MFA from the University of South Carolina and was Visiting Assistant Professor at Franklin College in Indiana. As a writer, he is fascinated by the poetic image for its capacity to both disorient and reveal, withhold and also create through language and craft. His poetry has been published in Gulf CoastPrairie Schooner, Rattle, and Hobart, and photography in the New York Times. He is currently working on his first full-length book of poems inspired by Giorgio Agamben’s explorations of zoe and bios, the Greek terms for “bare life” and “ways of living.”

Image: daisukerman, morguefile.com

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