Poetry by Andrew Rahal

when the man you don’t know jumps right next to you

and you can remember his outline pressed against
the swaying bridge
tenderly as a cauliflowered ear

fried against the world,
tonguing foam at the horizon
at the seized Chesapeake twilight.

So I missed it / something felt bright in the dark
noisy ideas slept in my mouth
and I slept in my mouth
like disappearing footsteps
rushing a volcano in silence.
Follow them quickly.
And as he stood there, he was bright as lava
diving through island lights

just a layer
over the Chesapeake
just a blue heavy hand wide
on the fat of a stomach
with one cateracting eye closed.

and the flab moves fast
bursting black foam’s
wish after wish
against the trestles,
and his smack climbed
like sediment squirming up
the bay’s blue throat and it has made it this far,
taking its years to grow back into a voice,
he’s howling his way up that ledge,
just behind your lips.

Andrew Rahal is Co-founder and Editor of poetry and non-fiction for the Nashville Review. He can be reached at Andrew.rahal@gmail.com.

to those who sit at a podium in the woods

Don’t go there anymore.
They all listen to a pack, rabid,
running around with eyes looking for human blood.

They came within ten feet of us, plant on plant,
how dirty, and left.

They ran to the corner of the forest hairs trimmed back wildly,
and found a dying man’s gloves still sweating
in bourbon,

they put them on and they fit. And they swung at his every line
line till it was dead and theirs to revive and the bell of oohs
sounded round one and as we left without the podium words to finish
I sat down, completely next to my chair.

“We’re not standing anymore,” my love tells me,
but it wasn’t called sitting either.
It’s what a sick tree does with its roots when they are
running slowly and listening deeply to the dredgings of dirt.


We can go far
if we don’t know
how far we will go.

The brumal shades
of morning unroll the wet carpet

of unfinished

slop and drifting shag
another drab day with the grass
I kick all my weather through a wet pebble

from the street
a dog licks ice off a tire
and I taste his old road too

black black and black
shades of rain and the brown dog
piss-alike addling colors

like the air over night he’s sweating at the curb,
he’s breaking claws at his ribcage
over a tic
the driveway
fills with his rain

the motorcycle is snow-boughed as a park
slapped roughly to life

the blue plastic cover flails beating its leather hum
back to sleep with a quiver of dark sticks

a brown tail
and black tails of streaming rain

shadowing off into shingles slipped
from the roof,
into slanting cafeteria tables drooping at street corners
with philly cheese

into the first time with my hand
gathering a puddle through a warped gutter

into the first time
falling out of a closet
her shark tooth necklace, in a single dangling
saccade, scratches her outstretched hand
and clutching, pulls me back in.
The air unsacked and hushed like we were
riding in elevators
with parents.

I just stare
back at my feet
a hot puddle blinks back
my face steamed in boiled old leaks
the exhaust pipe spews shedding snow through
any dark hole in the eyes and throat

and the kicked
wet pebble whethers this and that,
in the puddle, where it drips at ease,
where it travels.

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