Two Poems | C. Samuel Rees

4 mins read

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Rope Trick

Los Alamos, NM 1945

Among the yucca & buggy whips the desert thrums with domestic bliss.
They set up store window dummiesin cotton dresses, skewed wigs.
Cigarette-hewn khaki men in aviator shades compare heels, hankies,
slip modest undergarments over plaster groins,& tip their hats before bending close
to correct the touch of cadmium red on lips & cheeks.

They separate the dummies,suddenly men & women
though beneath it all pale plaster echoes.There are no children. They can’t
stomach children. Besidessuch cruelty in the face of this blinding epoch
seemed improper. Their jeeps bumble offto a safety berm 10 klicks away.
PFCs in leftover heels & hoeslift skirts, blow kisses from the backs of trucks.
When hydrogen burns brightyour moorings burn with you
like brides relegated to the whimsof dead husbands.

These things we have done(have burned) linger.
Faux-Japanese cities sproutedalong the desert’s spine
& immolated to the molecule.Borne our torches in elbow-length evening gloves.
Thumbed the starter. Burnt it all away.PFCs in their shelter trench can’t keep
their eyes off of the burning.Opera glasses fit so well beneath
steel helmets. Eyes sore fromlight & radiation & guilt
blink until weeping we pick apartthe bones if only to feel their crumbling warmth.
If only to recall the burning.

If only to carry their ashes on our whitefingertips & hems & in the powder on our cheeks.
My grandfather is here, stunning,draped in muskrat & skunk,
ears freshly piercedblooming red bomb-drops.
He shows me what it takesto perform the rope trick:
enough fuel, generations of it, to climb & complicity to bind flame to bone.

Can we dance these days downto rubble? Our stilettos are not suited
for the skulls, the slag. When burnt hydrogen bright
consider the way fire clambers downarms & eats fingers & steel cables
& us. Eats each of us
to a man.


we never dissected frogs or frozen cats in biology class
never pinned back fascia
split open life to see how easily we can
reduce to specimens

i played with dolls until i was in high school
removed their heads
magined splayed on the table
answers would tuck between
coiled intestines
found no unboxed horrors
no reasons why
huddled inside
only chambers bland as logic

what makes meat more than meat?
trunk & arms & legs
more litany than tangle?
tendon taxonomy tendency

my shape is little more than half-remembered anatomy lessons

house full of relatives

dead relatives in the bathroom

crooked stairway

his disheveled room

mattress on the floor

closet disgorging itself

skin turning itself morsel

porno mags                 his snares

the smell of him more a part of my body
than my body parts

i played with dolls until i was in high school
lined them up on the floor
smooth & pink
huddled down beside them
all my pretty limbs, only
mine only, all
all mine

C. Samuel Rees is a Pushcart-nominated, Pennsylvania-born, Austin-based teacher and writer who subsists on a steady diet of ecological texts, scifi, contemporary poetry, and horror movies. His work has appeared in Moth + Rust, The Bat City Review, The Fairy Tale Review, Grimoire Magazine, The Account, The Matador Review, Phantom Drift, and elsewhere.