OXIDANT | ENGINE : Issue 11

Tommy D'Addario

SOME SUBSTITUTIONS IN GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

In a cemetery where nobody I’ve ever heard of

sleeps forever, I speak my name between headstones.

 

In the cemetery full of names—names whispered,

names etched to be remembered, names worn into

 

illegibility by time—the roots of trees

drink the names left in sour dirt.

 

If being forgotten is to have never existed in your mind—

and isn’t it the same?—I feed the geese

 

and there is recognition in the motion: the pinch, the pull,

the pebble of grain smoothed between fingers.

 

Something drew the geese in. With fog at their feet

they might be floating, a fleet

 

to scour the wreckage for spoils. What’s here

to eat, among stone and dew and so many names carved into

 

the air, where morning light lifts cold water from the earth?

I have my sandwich and I am alive. These are and aren’t

 

my dead. I can’t recognize the names or even these leaves,

withered dry and gathered at my feet, so far from home.

SOME SUBSTITUTIONS OUTSIDE CODY, WYOMING

Aspens rise pale and angular, bone of the mountains

jutting white into moonglow. Roots of a single grove

probe for miles—and did the worn earth give where

one such arm could emerge and cause to stumble

the sleep-stupored gelding? Femur snap scream

and all the valley distorts to accommodate. This night

and every for weeks. In the sheep wagon where

I sleep, I wake to laughter: coyotes whoop across the river

over fresh kill, wash lip and fang between tugs of carcass.

How can one hold the two in one space: that cry

against which all pain will be measured; that laughter

against which all the sanest hours will subtract.

The horse had to be hoisted by crane after the shotgun’s

muzzle, borne to the field where it had bent to the tall grass,

the clover, earth once familiar and forgiving to the press of hoof.

I’m told, in snowfall, the wolves caught stench and gathered

to raze the memory down to bones. Beneath their laughter, bones.

Tommy D'Addario earned his MFA at the University of Montana. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Columbia Journal, Salt Hill Journal, Southern Humanities Review, and Western Humanities Review, among others. He's the author of the micro-chapbook, Requiring a More Articulate Courier of the Gods (Ghost City Press, 2020). He lives in Missoula, Montana, and holds a Lilly Graduate Fellowship.