sporklet 2
Ben Rutherfurd

(Three Poems)


They Bob in a Nice Neat Row

I’m tired of unfair accusations


against rap music. By that I mean


it’s unfair for a violent, misogynist society


to level accusations


of violence and misogyny. By that I mean I’m a little uncomfortable


with my own violence.


I would rather be uncomfortable than dead–God, it’s Friday


and I’m sitting in the courtyard of a little cafe


in Charleston, South Carolina, thinking about death.


There’s an Apple store across the street.


The workers there wear red, collared shirts. Maybe I’ll


buy something expensive. I can’t stand people


who view sex as a test of validation not a spiritual


experience. By that I mean I don’t get laid


but am mildly content. People used to “lay”


with one another. By that I mean there’s more than one


way to say a thing. By that I mean certain obsessions


are lodged so deeply in our psyches that avoiding them seems


hopeless. It’s “model week” in Charleston.


Last night lots of models walked these streets. It’s raining


now and no more beautiful people


ushered into taxis. Traveling brings you closer to the truth


by forcing you out of your routine. By that I mean


we get too comfortable with how we view ourselves


and should be disillusioned. Wherever you go


there you are,  is the title of a book someone


gave me about Zen meditation. By that I mean


I’m a victim of Western thought and need new views


about the self. By that I mean I’m treating someone badly


and would rather ruminate than face her. I scatter


some crumbs from my blueberry scone


and a few birds bounce to them. “They bob


in a nice neat row” is how a poem I once read


ends about the dead. But the poet was describing


ducks. By that I mean


the speaker. By that I mean I’m not


the person in this poem who’s afraid to face


someone I won’t name. Bob is both


an action and a name. Maybe names


are actions, the opposite of stillness.


By that I mean Western thought


can’t comprehend opposites.


By that I mean my actions


make no sense. By that I mean I’m sorry.


By that I mean I love you.

Chapter 1

His father kept transforming. We tried


inhaling the garage sometimes. The baptism


did not last long. The incline steeper


in that state. The flashlight’s beam


crawled across the gravel to reveal more gravel.


Especially clear the errands with his mother.


Not at all what was expected: a pool


encased in glass, with the heads of children


occluding the view. We secretly knew


he wore a uniform. So his father kept


taking the pills. My friends saw me see


myself on the bathroom floor, where I


apologized to Jesus. Don’t talk to him.


Don’t touch that. There’s a reason


they wear those tags. Finally


they fought, in the middle of the living room.


We let it happen. It was like the path


had been there. But the view transformed


to something unrecognizable. The pastor


dipped her again, having pronounced her


name wrong. Weird, even that


could ruin the whole ordeal.

There Is a Way Into If We Want

He could not go back. They had


to lug him over the chain link fence.


His shirt caught. It was obvious why.


He had no parents anyone could see.


The collar tore. His father kept taking


the pills. But not enough to care. The water


lashing the boat so it’s impossible to tell


whether you or it moves. Can you catch


a cold by getting cold? He bought a bag of


crickets to feed to the iguana. Inside


the bag they scurried like the bag


burned. He hit his brother. He learned


he had no brother. All that time,


whom had he been fighting? He had no parents.


Anyone could see. It was obvious why.


He dropped them into the tank. I don’t


know why but the damn thing wouldn’t


eat, so they chirped all night. He set his shirt


on fire in the driveway. I remember


that chapter. But not enough to care.

Ben Rutherfurd received his MFA in Poetry from The University of Arizona and has published reviews in The Volta. He currently teaches English in Tucson. Arizona.