Poetry: 2 by Matthew Zingg

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permanent residence [7]

Once the flood was the most fearsome end

I could imagine—my favorite toy—

 

a plush Noah’s ark with a pocket for each couple

of hand-sewn animals:

 

my mother would woo me to sleep—

 

if it’s missing then it should be:

 

under the bed somewhere—buried at the bottom

of the clothes hamper—

 

it was the slow ones I kept track of:

 

to control the river TVA flooded

the valley—over-ripe with tar paper houses—

 

family graves no one had time to excavate:

 

grab only what you can: the cat—the lone tin cup—

a pack of cigarettes:

 

if it’s missing—forget the picture book:

 

I pulled Noah & his wife apart

to see what they were made of—by then

 

I knew how to swim: I was a catfish as fat

as a Volkswagen steeped in mud—

 

gorging by the locks—I built my own village:

 

the color wispy for the clapboards—

the reedy shades—the feed & seed calendar—

 

loosened the dead float into their rooms: remember

when they say—remember when.

 

permanent residence [8] 

Give us a fortnight dear—then the wampas cat:

 

with the others my father took to the forest—

their over-unders unloaded—their doctrine fatigues—

 

a full jug of hill william slop—best mash for miles:

 

the wampas: an upright beast—its eyes—

all wrong—a crayola wax candle

 

through spit watered forty-fives—the flicker

on the shanty walls:

 

some secrets the men left carelessly bare:

 

in a Chattanooga laundromat a drunk veteran

shows me the S.O.P. for folding my shirts—shows me

 

a tattooed rooster down his thigh—

my cock hangs past my knee—

 

we played quarters—drank the beast:

 

in the end I hoped to never see him again:

 

when he returned my father—unshaven—the smell

of long miles—hundreds of them—on his coveralls:

 

with nothing to speak of:

 

except to say—the woods were quiet dear

not for you—the rifle back in its place

 

above the threshold—still oiled & clean:

 

they say the thing—a thieving witch—a nosy squaw—

a spirit that can break a man—

 

hides in the forgotten parts of our city:

 

the unused aqueducts—the reclaimed quarry—

beneath the abandoned L&N station—

 

at night the cry of a mountain cat

tearing at her insides—just the thought is enough

 

to start you fretting all over:

 

when I was rough jawed I learned the wampas tongue—

 

a stench rhythm (skunk—dog—wet pelt)

hidden in the sweat lodge of my throat: I spoke

 

my name—whose fault is this?

Timmy Reed

Timmy is a writer of poetry and fiction. He edits the What Literature section of What Weekly.