Leafmold: An Excerpt

by | Mar 11, 2014 | Poetry

from Leafmold

The albino goose sticks out like a live coal in a shoveful of ashes—there’s no mistaking him overhead, even through high limbs. Half a mile upstream, the dog and I find a feathered carcass surrounded by canine prints in the snow: no head, no feet, just a picked-clean ribcage and two ruined wings. A ladder made of vultures. An echo goes nowhere in a frozen well—not even a self at the bottom. While the dog is pissing, the world returns: a massive, overgrown maple is year-by-year pushing a pine to the ground. Peas, onion, zucchini, tomatoes, and a patient, guiding hand. Somewhere, a fuse has blown. What the holy stranger painted on the womb’s untouched wall: no never naught. A ladder: quaintness, worship, and a week syntaxed with snow. Truth is a worn-out, fraying hat—still fits. Five degrees and falling: a full moon behind starved branches. We picture waterwheels, hundreds of miles to the south, breaking stasis into chaos—we sleep well.


Finally, the year’s longest night arrives without a sound. A carnivore at the edge of town. The roar of gas rushing from the nozzle’s mouth. In the mind’s belly, snow tapers off into a dread the color of rotten coral and all night the postures and vernacular freeze into friezes. Thick August and the cicadas are all but finished. No one loves the moon like we do and we don’t even love the moon. Seems the universe has had to recycle more than a few faces this year. First light on the marshes: within each bead of dew the temples are rising and falling, falling and rising again. So the dog shits in the Volvo’s backseat. So the hermits have all raised white flags above their thatched huts. At one point it seemed the fiddle played itself—all the dancers flashing gold teeth at the whiskey-slick boards of the floor. Two magnets within and the soul rolls in slow circles. At evening the sound of wood being chopped pierces the windows. Hours later we smell smoke.


When in the swerve-light of dawn a pumpkinbird settles in a birch’s bones. Loud, hard coughing under a weak sun. Hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm—the determination to get within amazes. Given two bad weeks, it can all collapse, don’t you think? Night comes nearer and nearer—an austere animal at the edge of touch. I go for months without a vision until I find the old woman dying for sleep, the birds—owls, hawks, eagles—staring down from the cloudy trees with a patience that keeps her breathe from giving way. Roofers next door making a racket that hits the heart of autumn before dropping into snow. What is this fucking feeling behind the teeth? Picture gold curdling. Picture the black spikes of a coastal fort against clear skies. Have you ever felt it? The dog explodes when car doors slam, when cupboards open, when book slips from hand. What matters is that it is happening again and that what has happened might continue.


Dissonance versus summer—an argument the electric saw mediates all morning long. A tableau vivant of armored soldiers marching toward a sea. Ghosts blur the stars as they plummet through our atmosphere. Good, tense lines in my head before sleep—now nothing more than a vague joy, a barely describable shifting at the brain’s backdoor. What the moon forged against midnight: a white-hot line of Arabic and a smokestack billow drifting above it. The ATM card gets lost and I go back to the moment before I rolled down my window—a car in the next lane honking to warn me of the future. They say retuning the liver takes a good three years but the change in frequency is worth it. As the southpaw controls the rain, as the fog over Beijing absorbs death and light at once, so the right hand with but a twitch brings all the waters of earth to a furious boil. My neighbor the knife-maker has lymphoma—he can barely lift a hammer. Same noble glint to his eyes, though.




Photo By: uccsbiology

About The Author

F. Daniel Rzicznek

F. Daniel Rzicznek is the author of two poetry collections, Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2009) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press, 2007), as well as three chapbooks, Nag Champa in the Rain (Orange Monkey Publishing, 2014), Vine River Hermitage (Cooper Dillon Books, 2011), and Cloud Tablets (Kent State University Press, 2006). His work can be found forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Verse, Blackbird, Quarter After Eight, Passages North, and Another Chicago Magazine. Also coeditor (with Gary L. McDowell) of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press, 2010), Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University.