Philip Schaefer

Lower Rattlesnake


Something about this town is old rubber.
If it isn’t dangling from the bed
of a red truck, a deer is
gnawing flowers from my palm.
Everyone here drinks alone
together. The stars are bulbs
of Jurassic insects, paused lightning.
They curse down our open shirts.
I wet my fingers and try to pinch one
like a wick, forgetting how distance closes
in on us from past and future centuries.
This night is a brown, miniature train:
we widen our mouths into tunnels.


Some nights are thick as milk.
What we abandon retracts
with small clouds on its back.
We fight the urge to torment
bottles into the ground,
but we are weak. Danger
speaks from within. Distills
the shape our bodies make
the way some roses swallow
gold until everything is whole
and a bee sings out.


Everyone here pretends to be grass,
wind-licked, though we are only
kidding ourselves. The girls want us
to drink another one for them
even after they’ve gone to bed
in some strange guy’s average arms.
So we do two, twelve, trouble
we’ve sunk into before and before
that and after. After, always.


There are more fields than we have fingers
to run them through. We pour beer
into the creek and press our ears
to the earth where the rocks shift,
move water south toward our lips.
We are conch shells, stethoscopes,
children in the grove saying
no more, never evermore.
We will not go home.