Have you seen in dead light
last crops and lonely disappearances?
The earth gives us grief as if
that were it’s only point.
Some fall blind in the road,
become better people.
But I have always thought the worst—
a murder on the way to Bible study.
No, I never followed those with the mark of Cain,
those kids in Arkansas who burned boxes in their yard.
But I’ve wanted to end myself more than once,
lay down in the corn rows with a shot to the head.
The only other feeling was that dark ministry to my body,
that libertine fever for anyone I saw.
How to get rid of that relic of desire?
I threw plenty of things in the bonfire.
Liquor bottles, matchbooks, telephone
numbers—all those things that turned my heart black.
Even left my knife at home
when I went out rambling at night.
I sunk love letters from the side of the boat,
a hurt animal floating on Lake Catherine.
But what good is purging if your heart isn’t in it?
Ignorant whims have kept me in exile.
Driving back from the woods in a beat-up car,
I remembered lions ate people for real:
the servants of Christ, the simple people He loves.
I have tried to be one, but got mixed up what was the blood and the word.
Living by the spirit is a walk without the body,
a devotion to evening’s purple lanes.
I believe in holy fire, in horsemen, in hills made of skulls.
And I believe in thieves and the infirm. I am, after all.
Imagine being so ugly they dressed you as a corpse.
I’ve tried other outfits, bandaged my face, headed downtown.
But all my efforts to meet her eyes end with
a vanishing back into the casket of my room.
Anyway, the pool hall in Little Rock is closed now. †
Everyone says just go drink in the pines.
They act like they don’t know the result of wood, gas, and matches,
stand on a ship bound for hell to spite it all.
Still, I keep a blank book for future confessions,
a place to sketch the shape of my thirst.
So forgive me again, repeat those wounds.
Minister to my need to be saved by savage blows.
†This line after Frank Stanford
Kyle Vaughn’s poems have appeared in journals such as The Journal, A-Minor, Adbusters, The Boiler, Drunken Boat, Poetry East, Vinyl, and The Shore (2021 Pushcart Prize nomination). He is the author of Lightning Paths: 75 Poetry Writing Exercises and the co-author/co-photographer of A New Light in Kalighat. www.kylevaughn.org / twitter: @krv75 / insta: @kylev75 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org