F. Daniel Rzicznek

from Leafmold


Everything unclean can be washed. Everything unwashable can be burned. The red-tailed hawk’s icewater cry draws the throb from a bruised knuckle but only for a prolonged instant. Could not make a thing today. Could not make enough self fast enough. Make in the morning, before the day knows what to do. Make while the dogs are hungry. Have you ever really hugged a dog, down on its level? That unstable, breathing altar, maybe a model for the first table? We’re caught up: running at your side: at heel: it is just like the West to frame every last detail in terms of itself. Change for me, change for me, but do not change. Cato the Younger was born some two thousand years ago and we are still debating his suicide. Dr. Sleepdream of anonymous bombast asks what the sailboat resembles, as if the answer could be otherwise. Nicknamed by fate, you looked to a point entirely unknown but fathomed by mathematics alone. A great blue heron through the backyard’s treetops — the ordinary luck of living on a drained swamp. The angel-orange of the dash’s warning light brings the wholesale weight of our stress to the icy, air-chocked surface.


Freedom from science ends up meaning more science. I cook cod’s tongues in the back of my fevered throat while the sick dog snores and dreams. The well-tailored remains of a visceral stupidity at odds with its own psychotropic lust. A flush beats a pair. My hotel rule: always take the pen and notepad. My heroin rule: never do it. My funeral rule: why bother. My Frank Lloyd Wright rule: nod and bow to the waterside grasses. The old dog sneezes violently and I am forced to break my write-with-black-ink rule. Combing back through all of these eight years. Line of dots in the margins. Inaccuracies and errata smuggled via alternate versions of this weird life. Out of the piñata: embryos, platypus eggs, capers, AAA batteries, candy corn, fur-lined boots, Communism, beanfields, the paintings of George Bellows — all of them, a halo of unspoken thoughts, the current cattle population of North America, greenhouses choked with grape tomatoes, everyone who has ever died of appendicitis, mercy. How many poets are looking at the sky right now? They see the bottom of the page and turn back. Driven wild by purity, the mind sits on its hands, watches the ruins burn, feels its nails growing.


Reeking of smoked salmon and white Rhone, I enter the chapel. Something behind the body. Something past. A response to a response: redeemed, astronomical, begin. The Broadman Hymnal I grip smells of laughter and the crackling of pipe tobacco in ancient hands. My doctor and I discuss the inevitability of advertisements delivered via wireless signal directly to the brain. My doctor and I discuss the lost art of trephination. Lines of power slope between one world and the next: they cannot be cut, cannot even be touched. Reading about canine psychology at forty thousand feet raises some questions: Just how long ago were these nails claws? and Isn’t anything with a brain roughly human? Back home a pine full with fog coughs up the moon. Ducks of sleep, flock of visions, bouncing room to room with night’s woody music: full of stems and structure. We cover ourselves with garments to forget the fact of our animalism. We go so far as to cover ourselves with animals. Animals then cover us with their various hungers. The scarlet seeping forward is the beginning of something holy.


A nation of mirrors — the clergy gone berserk, the politicians stepping noiselessly onto the moon, the midwives with their ears covered and backs turned. It’s all I can do to bring myself to cook a little toast in the morning. It is a cloud of knowing that arrives as transport: finger cymbals chiming in the sperm whale’s tummy, cardinals on branches singing “take me to the river,” Brahmins waltzing silently through mud, through body-ash. Listening about violence at the reading, I realize I have never hit a man on part of his head with either of my fists. Tabula rasa followed with a question mark. The streets grow older with rain, younger with snow, and stain themselves into the ongoing present with the still heat of July, memory just another way of saying cut your hair or tap your head to the window and pray. Random as a feather: an urge, an affection, a reunion of the senses, a gallery of seers. The library could deliver something heinous — not a vitamin, not a salve, not a remedy, but a text like a free state, a paregoric of the brain, a motion resolved by downpour.

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 four chapbooks, most recently Live Feeds (Epiphany Editions, 2015). His recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Volt, Kenyon Review, Massachusetts Review, The Pinch, Natural Bridge, and elsewhere. Also coeditor 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.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.