Fall 2009, #16
       "Woodchuck vs. the Hank Williams Zombie"

Two Poems

     by Craig Paulenich

Blood Will Tell

Blood will tell you
there is lightning in the window,
that hair is a calendar,
fingernails cookbooks.
Blood shows you
how to roll them bones,
tells you watch
what you wish for.

Blood remembers your face
before you were born,
hums "Jacob's Ladder,"
spells "heterozygote" and "polydactyly."
Blood is behind you and before you.

Blood mumbles riddles,
dirty limericks, bad jokes, laws of probability;
lectures on line breeding and prepotency,
throwbacks, back-cross, repulsion.
Blood knows all the skeletons, opens all the graves,
whispers, "There's no one like you."

Blood says, "Catch me if you can."
Blood says, "I told you so all along."
Blood says, "Rumpelstiltskin,"
sees in all directions,
knows where you live.

Blood tells who and when,
gives names and dates.

Blood knows which foot fits the slipper.

Hiawatha and Hardhat

The National Malleable is improbably
robins’ egg blue, shaped like
a longhouse on the bank of the Shenango:
clans along the sides,
fire down the pouring floor,
smoke slits in the roof.
There’s a chunk of plate steel cut to the shape of a broom
suspended above chutes of blast furnace flames,
heaps of cooling slag on the floor
like strawberries under dark leaves.

Hulking electric furnaces tear the ozoned air,
cowering crackle and snakespit,
the om beneath the eruptions a hum so bass
it plucks the diaphragm like a string.

A dozen times a day
men misplace their bodies,
mistake them for greentops
or shrieking cranes.
The iron thunk of flask on flask
echoes in the chambers of the heart,
flesh nothing more than salty pudding
in a universe of iron and fire.
Belts stretch like snakes in the rafters,
naked bulbs and tunnels beneath the floor.

Opiate flame, smell of burnt bentonite,
arrange the cores counterclockwise
and the iron minutes melt to overtime.
The men eat sand, each breath
sparkles with silica.