Four Poems by Tony Mancus

All the Things Your Head Can Be

your head is a pew, you drape its curve. your empty palm, pass the plate along with three dollars pulled from your pocket to stifle your candle-lit worry. the trace of a thought in one dream as it’s drawn across thresholds—your tiny form against a massive door, pressing, odor. the still nimble bodies bowing into their wrongs, a haven few feathers commit in their writings—to dip the pull up fully and be muted again. what the gravel knows in each swallow may be how dark the space of its landing. i flutter the coats. they stand in as the congregation. how a quill buries itself into a cord of rope, or a sword gets swallowed with no measure for the harm it harbors—the hilt a stopping point reached by the hands—they say up to here and no more.

 

Mind Bone Broke/Mind Break Bone

To be nice—a face
makes a face into
the back of one’s head,

what shatters
there is dead already dying each
breath brings this closer
to the cultural                         argument of advertising
(central)
and how we’re laden with nothing
but want and currency

 

Rented Space

The faces of my friends in strangers
as the bus waits for its conductor
full of yesterday’s farts and the silence
of 7 a.m. on a Saturday.

Last night the snow ran away from
all the parked cars and Jeff Mangum
sang us songs backdropped with red
velvet—the saw bending its hook-

throat, us children limp-bodied
and tarrying in our seats. The salt
in trucks kept its scatter close and
on the Potomac a concurrent wish/

curse thrumming atop the water
split the ice. Curves are the best
lines to sing and I tell my love
her hands should knock easy—

how the cracks in our lives are
filling with work, how our files
will look to the review committee
full of breath-short horses.

Somebody says our rented space is
Something and I draw our bodies
together. It looks like shadows but
it is us and the sky doing us in.

 

Diorama of an Unused Road

cement barrier lunged
power post
and pavement
the house, a wave of breathing

cuts like
wheelmark
and warehouse
backdrop

the child in each crooked
and uncrossable line

unsing signs
and trailers beaking
into other lanes

if there was a way to pain
and through it. To pin

what it means
to call home
a hallway and swerve
around in it

water trucks and concrete piping
the heat
it takes
to clear
a billion geese
still in snow
the debarked trees of NJ

where it ends in dirt
and nude lumber—the new
cloverleaf

and rebar pointing
up at the gray
space above

 

 

***

Tony Mancus is the author of a handful of chapbooks, including Bye Land (Greying Ghost) and Bye Sea (Tree Lights Books) and the co-curator of In Your Ear, a monthly reading series in D.C. In 2008, with Sommer Browning, he founded Flying Guillotine Press. One of their titles, abu ghraib arias, by Philip Metres, won the Arab American Book Award in 2012. Tony has taught creative writing for many years—most recently with Writopia Lab DC and Hunter College in New York. He lives in Rosslyn with his wife Shannon and their two cats.

Altered image: thelesleyshow, morguefile.com

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