Spotlight: My Night as a Dumpster and an Urchin, and Other Poems

My Night as a Dumpster and an Urchin

++++++and I know you will not listen, you are like the cupboard,
but please forgive, yet again, my shredding, indefinite removal

++++++of the stars, who aren’t getting any smaller, who kindle in a tree
or two: oblique, engrossing stars—who are you trying to convince, who

++++++rounds out your list? They tremble, and bait the moon, and I envy them
their lexicon—their burning, wax arms are hallucinations from my trapped, clacked-up

++++++shudderings. They could almost hear me: I am numb, like them, and the asteroid
belt, that longest of legs, has hounded us for a hundred thousand years against a corner

++++++and back into our unbelievable mouths. Let us put our hands together and make one
knotted steeple, we are young only as trash. Let me hum a few chords while we predict

++++++the inevitable years when we’ll be old and control our every orbit: I have spied
on robins, cloven vandals in my eyes, the fists of comets marking targets on my clean wrists

++++++and listening to the sonorous copyright vespers we never sang. Let me be a flooded
drain then, a scarf coughed up against my light chin, my eyes craven. The avenues under

++++++our woven skins are burning but I’ve seen worse, drowning in the imbalance
of magnets and whittled to an edge by clouds, a riven urchin. How could the living

++++++be praised? To what songs do they strum? The bruised suns we strung
up for our exhibition beat their cold boots together and dust covers the wet earth.

++++++Let this be quick and feverish, an elegy for my reprinted kidneys, tethered
like telephone wires to liquid and obvious clouds. Where are my cerebral

++++++and distant fathers, my clandestine arteries, some believable dialogue?
We could disappear from here for free—there will be a dearth of us in the night.

My Night as a Thorn and an Aerogramme

Only Thursday tastes like this: a mouthful of cheap
++++++sepals and reeds breathing. I walked to the river

and watched my father commence his drowning
++++++only to remember that he is made of sand.

Let me stand stock-still in the street: the phone screams,
++++++but only if you beg it; only autumn demands our teeth

to smolder like craters; only the rug can shelter more stains than
++++++my voice: a wavelength of winter, broken tables down my throat.

I am a burning aerogramme: to bury my high-strung rats you must carry
++++++me a little farther, and to barter my thrushes the night must drop

its dead finches. You want to pinch the hips of my livelihood?
++++++I am a burning aerogramme, a puncture in lumber, an upturned

dumpster: must I remain apostrophic? Drive home the thorn—
++++++my glands have grown dry from shouting with this colorblind voice.

My Night as a Plumage and a Portrait

I live in a house up the road but I am not a surgeon.
++++++I cannot fix you with honey or with gauze.

I collect tin cans but ignore the driftwood.
++++++I run a shower when ragweed sticks to my fists.

My words are stars in black parentheses. For me
++++++the moon is always covered in wintered blood.

I have no money in my chest of drawers. My chest is full of leaves
++++++and umbra. I sit in the angular square and lift not one vesper

from my lips. Through the long curtains of my eyes comes the first
++++++refusal of light—charring through the windows of nebulas,

I flicker into a river down twin tongues. Down twin tongues,
++++++gravity doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except for that bridge

of ill-born supernovas piling like dust on a tired moon. I banished
++++++the planets from this cage. In this cage my self-portrait

is a plumage of black teeth. When wind surrounds the mausoleum
++++++with wet leaves, I wait for the rain to rub its fingers all over me.

My Night as a Mannequin and a Casket

With me you tried your worst but still fleshed me
++++++out, plastered me with all this desperate skin,

and now I burn these hundred mites from my tongue,
++++++bury signposts in the directions of bricks, and distill

the venom from my lungs. I chased our bodies outside,
++++++plagiarized the night, and revived us from the compost

heap of my skull—but we won’t live like twigs or oars,
++++++backlit rivers, adjectives slipping into seasons.

I lull trains to pass the time, hang useless frames, and remember
++++++our worst night—when the steam off the rain declared

us membranes that bristle, awaiting close locusts
++++++to drill sky-drunk inside our chests like wax

spears. That kindling of birds in your mouth dissolves
++++++to glycerin, our mannequins cut off their ears, a radio

busts through the window with cold marrow, whispers
++++++flood your fractal teeth, and my knuckles refute the fact

that we were born. Now our bodies begin to rust
++++++under new skins, but I’ll remember you: your eyes

like moths in the dark—and you’ll remember
++++++me the way a casket knows who lowered it.

Graf Photo-1Derek Graf was born and raised in Tampa, FL. He received his B.A. from the University of South Florida, where he studied under the poets Katie Riegel and Jay Hopler. He currently lives and works in Stillwater, OK, where he is completing his MFA degree at Oklahoma State University. His chapbook, What the Dying Man Asked Me, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications in 2015. His poems have been featured in The Boiler Journal, Misfit Magazine, and Meat for Tea: The Valley Review. He likes to make new friends. Find him on Facebook at