THERMOS 10: Three Poems by Hunter Deely

These three poems are from a special issue of THERMOS featuring Hunter Deely’s poetry. You can check back every couple days in the coming month for more of his poetry. For an introduction, see here.

Bull Burning

I’d stopped between two mesquite
trees hung with seedpods and Roxanna
rode up beside me on her red mare.
A hum steady rose from the woods
around as beetles flush with oak wilt
bored holes through bark to leave
dead trees scattered like antlers
                                over the hills.

Roxanna led me out of the brush.
The dead oak at the center of
the pasture ahead pocked with
grubholes and boils. A dozen
buzzards with dark wings splayed
began to tremble, a shower of
dried blood dust fell like cold
smoke around the helix of wood.

No leaves to block the sun, she
said, or wind. So their feathers
can dry. So death attracts its own
practitioners: the hard, faceless
beetles that burn with vegetable
fever; the warm dust that billows
from the wings of carrion-eaters.

We untied the gascan from the
saddle and walked the rest of
the way to where we’d seen them
circling. The bull’s chest stood
open, a cave of anthrax and
shadows. The gasoline like distilled
moonlight. The bodily sound of
its drip and splatter. The fumes
like formless mushrooms growing
in time-lapse. The sulphur smell of
a pinewood match. I hate to see
them go this way, she said. Into
nothing. Roxanna’s dark eyes lit up
by the pyre. But God is good. He
provides. And the earth there
was charred till December.


Late at night you might hear a single bird singing.

The clouds move quickly, low to the ground, white on blue, and you are suspended in a lightbulb.

Sometimes past movements become imprinted in the air and it’s hard to tell how many people are in the room. Are they each one person or are their trails of color others altogether?

You might remember the smell of her scalp like midday linen.

Do the birds multiply or is it the sound slowing down as it enters your ears?

You might notice how amberly her eyes refract light on wood in the dark room, and how her gaze shifts with the wind coming in through the window with magnolia.

When you were sixteen you and your girlfriend parked your car on top of a hill looking out over the city and drank a bottle of cheap whiskey, the caliche road was white and the cedars that ran down half a mile were dark blue women dancing in the breath of something much bigger than you.

You might tell her about this and hope she understands.

She might, or she might not.

You might then try to explain how it felt when they started to sing Amazing Grace at Luther’s funeral, and the sound of his aunt and his mother wailing was so loud but not quite louder than the choir.

One morning you went to the graveyard and when the sun hit a certain angle you could see that there were thousands of spider webs strung between the blades of grass. You were still very young then and it was confusing, to be in love while you sat on a soldier’s bones. These things make more sense now. How there are cities of spiders that you never see until the light decides it wants you to. And you might wonder here if you is singular, or plural, and if there is a difference.

She might ask for help when the nightbird comes flying through the window and sets the lightbulb swinging wildly like a drunken satellite.

She might also disappear inside the bird, and your memories go with her.

Drinking Rain

The body becomes determined
as an imitation. Shift shadow on skin

to a fractal edge. A dove
asleep in the basil. How, swollen

with light, does your pupil rinse
the black coffee

seaward? That morning we woke
by an artificial river, the gar

fish thick in the mud. What
drove the silent

moss to song? On bicycles rushing
under dark leaves

and spiders.
Over water paths in the stone tongue.

Powder off the ibis’ wing
on our cold, bare arms.

How it met the earth around us, burst
the unfurling of a bean. If sleep

rose to us in the ragged
nest it was faithless, it was the story

of a dream told at a great distance.


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