Ashton Kamburoff

Benching: A Note on Passing Boxcars

Tonight the heart is a rusted knot.

Oxidized muscle rattling in headlight.

Take me. I am sitting here. Take me.

West is the way in which a lover leaves

while East is the hometown you fought

so hard to recognize. What more can I

say to the dead grass, to the constellations

of 40 oz. glass, to the men threading a fistful

of tinfoil through blighted teeth? How can I tell

you that I’ve come here to practice translation –

that aerosol across a boxcar is the hieroglyph for skin.

Understanding James Brown

After Adrian Matejka

James Brown’s “Try Me” is the sudden death
bank shot of the soul, a buzzer beating

my brain into the belief that I am both
net and gravity, earlobe and heart string

of braided nickel, bass lines fat
as the finger that plucks notes

like berries from the vine. But I couldn’t
touch voice. That smooth staccato

of velvet wrapped in velvet
makes a mind thaw like burger

in July. Darling, pinned to the coattails
of your exhale is where I have

wished myself. Not like I’ve snagged
my shadow on chain – link or forgotten

how honey and hairspray drives a bee
to kamikaze pistils of inner-sweetness.

Far from it. Far from performing exorcisms
with dynamite, or excavations with A-bombs,

far from any other act that separates
the brave from the stupid, or simply

the unsure, is just this song. Whatever
that means. Sometimes I say whatever

that means as a way to declare
my muddled confusion, my stuttering

absence of sense, my eyes deferring
to my hands as if cuticles could grow

answers. Answer this: how could one-
hundred and forty pounds of you

squeeze into a needle? How can I
continue spinning beneath all this?