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4 Poems by Erin J. Mullikin


Your verbs come in waves. First,
there’s the antelope’s speed, then the owl’s
moon tilting, then the rush of Chinese junks.

To call a vessel trash: well, that’s just
interpretation for you. Or how ancient ships
become obsolete when the seas evaporate.

Or how analogue & digital are wed
to each other & to us. We make a sex film
via 8mm via hand-held via live streaming.

Of course, not everything depends on language.
Take, for instance, how many times we’ve made
love/just fucked. Recorded or not. Defined

our character shapes: (we fit.) & I listen to your
math like I am cloistered, like I am a horse
on fire hurrying across a dry prairie.

The divine as numerical sequences:
this is what we count on. Systems.
Sleepings. The fragmented

motions of our legs forked together.
A pair of scissors cutting awake the night.
One. Two. Three. Four.


You. Come here & show me how horses
stay clean when the barn is gone.

I’ve been trying for days to determine
whether or not I’m syncretic or bioluminous,
whether I’m postmortem or posthumous.

An after. Help/Hello. I am calling
to say I won’t be worming my way home
anytime soon.

At the art museum, I signaled you
to look at the Bernini. I beckoned & cried.
Alarmed, you stood apart, more content
with oils than marble.

How is it I am dry when you touch
my eyelids, the hair falling around my ears?

Stoned, I lean into the cave about your hips.
I scavenge for lost particles of light,
for drops of water against a forever
falling cityscape.

These are real-time figures
plaque-red for hanging in your file.
Documents of dénouement,
silence caught between two Catholics.

You. I tell you to stay still.
Salt when wet maintains its taste.


The telegrams read:
Can’t stop here & No going back now

I sit in the city of casual glances.
I’m hammering out volumes of text
& what’s going to happen, will.
The soft root of his death             (1)
like a bird unwinding a ball of string
from a kite.

A motorcade full of brain matter.
Jackie’s pink suit, her round hat.

Roses. Dallas heat. What concerns me most
are the details left for later, revealed in a future
surreal. The telegram read:

Stop Being So Goddamn Marriageable Stop

So she did it with a knife stab to the heart.
So she did it with a deer watching, or a horse.

The telegram read:
She was climbing out of the car
Stop    The car was still moving

This is a playground for the remote,
the undefinable aspects of our living
among the fine hairs of carpenter bees,
extracting goodness from the indulgent
bloodlines. This is pedigree going down
into the annals of subversive dreamlands,
the swivel of clock hands resting
prematurely on the sundial of America.
This is a gun & this is a brain & this is how
horses must be punished: by stealing them away
from every pasture they’ve ever known.

1 Frank Stanford. “Taking Your Life.” Crib Death.


Let’s say it’s still close to mid-century last century.
Let’s say it’s the 1960s/70s.
Let’s say that the grass is dry & full of tiny beetles
but we’re content with being back-side-down
in it, watching the sky, feeling the slight
movement of the earth, our finger whorls
like patterns in the clouds, & the clouds
are reflected in the water, & the water is as warm
as the back of your neck. Let us begin our hymn.

The time for war & pigs has passed us.
We aren’t exactly human, nor are we always
or exactly arrangements
forming images in intergalactic mediums.
Some of us trade shells as we grow.
Some of us stunt nerves, our exactitude
for touching: fireworks.

Every 20,000 years, the constellations shift
themselves. It’s a natural wonder:
how the universe breaks down, dislocates
& relocates its edges.

When we met at the cusp of the park,
I was surprised you hadn’t heard of me before.
Serpens, best seen in July. Best seen in complete
darkness, split into two distinct areas
of sky. How tiny lights form recognition.
Two stars, congruent, made to mirror.

Let’s say you & I are those two stars
& at some point we must connect across
a vastness only examined from a distance
greater than the total of our unified selves.
A blade, you’ve said before, is but a splinter
of the sum. Here we go, becoming something
to be seen, our alliance like two trains striking
in the dark. A detonation. An absolute horror.

Beneath us, roots push into the soil.
Our backs are stained green. The friction.
The awful knowing that we are collecting
pigments both unnatural & correct.

Erin J. Mullikin is currently an MFA candidate at Syracuse University. Her works have appeared in such journals as CellPoems, BlazeVOX, and GlitterPony. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, After Milk & Song (South Carolina Poetry Initiative, 2010) and Strategies for the Bromidic (dancing girl press, 2011).