by Marvin Shackelford




Sometimes the body connects

uncertainly to parts animal

and unforgiving, or maybe

I have that backwards. The body


isn’t interested by poetry,

in motion or otherwise, or song,

maybe in dance but only for short

periods of time. Whenever


the loud and stamping warhorse

begins to think in rhyme or plot

an ending to its own untold story,

it carefully paces hoof and flank


before the small separation

spanning its sleep and truth. I fall

two places at once. The cavalry charges

through me, but I want to speak it.




The body frowns so long its stone wears thin.

It perches above the castle eaves

and watches for virgins, their sacrifices.

Their dresses brush a secret language

across the pavement, warn no matter

how heavy the breath they won’t catch flame.


The body knows they kid themselves.

Come darkness it crawls the electric

ramparts of a hallowed skyscraper,

jeering and sincere at once.

The priests wink and sharpen their hooks.

The body waits between time and place,

etched clear and clean but not quite spoken.



The body is given to fits

of cooperation, pacts with metal

and fuels plumbed from the earth’s thick veins,

the scabs crusting its face. The body

opens itself, turns light to smoke,

swallows the desires of others’ hands.

What wonder the slag in me melts so cleanly.

The terrible mouths at work, intent

on blood and every last part of speech,

starve in their wide but drying morass.

The body twines with teeth and eyes

until it’s unrecognizable.

What bursts gnarled and slickly winged

from this dust will not be me.




Marvin Shackelford is author of the collections Endless Building (poems, Urban Farmhouse Press) and Tall Tales from the Ladies’ Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming from Alternating Current). His work has, or soon will have, appeared in Kenyon Review, Southern Humanities Review, Recommended Reading, and elsewhere. He currently resides in Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture.



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