Corbin Louis : Poetry : January 2020

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was drawn to Dead Mule for its deep investment in carrying on the tradition of that dense humid- backcountry writing made visible by Faulkner and O’ Connor and Toomer.

Two Poems

Backwater Prayer for John

Today, like every day, I feel nicotine shooting through me. I sit with twisted minds, smoking by the train tracks─ aka us backwater servants of the righteous order. We walk the 8-fold-8-ball rollercoaster. The iron rails lead us to a ghost town that resembles California’s skeleton. Every hill melting. We are bone lickers. We gnaw on the gristle of isolation. We drink water beer and red bull. Yet there is not enough caffeine in the milky way to reshape our exhaustion. Us, the generation of oxy nintendo. The indulgent 90’s turned hammer. Even the stars bleed in our path. Even our names, graffitied onto the wall, fade into blotches of cloudlike foam. The best we can do is eat the carrion.  All of us fools. We tell each other to keep living. We try and make sure of it. When a member of our tribe is down and out, we say, keep living, be sure of it. This way the car wreck and suicide of our heart is differed and tomorrow comes to chew us with its platinum sunrise teeth. The smartest of us wear ornate disguises. Like Mike who keeps his face behind the resume. Or John and his pickup truck, gray overalls stretched over what I imagine is the great ache. And I wear a ridiculous disguise. A thin body. A cape of pretention. I wear a list of movies and a pork recipe and a playlist and T-shirt. My great dream is the dream of sewer boys. That gold shotgun we regard as fine dining. We imagine the smell of our own death, and we smoke casinos by the carton, and we sigh over the nostalgia of warehouse raves. And it seems like each day is an incredulous bolt in the machine, drawing us forward at such a rate that we cannot alter the machine. The power of our bodies is hard to measure. I’ve come to find that smelling flowers does not affect the brain enough to improve one’s personality. I smell the roses but I’m moved by the dumpsters. The smiling disaster kisses me hardest. And I cradle it, like a north star. I suck loose the scabs of light. And I return to my tribe, all of us walking to the ocean.

Without Despair

A season of change came
like westerlies
came like daffodils
falling to the earth
despite so much engine
in the radiator
heart the heat wave
of our bodies
which felt like
train tracks
still warm from what
came passing
from the clay
of our mouths that hold
words in the order
  of our best
no one knows this cadence
better than
the ones who dance it
and what’s better
a good dance
than wind
that brushes our
when the rivers
go dry when
the sun is too hot and we
wait forevening
to fall and cool
our faces this
this noon
yields everything