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We’re Always Getting the Story Wrong

            The film tells of a gigantic, island-dwelling ape called Kong who dies in
            an attempt to possess a woman.

They’re out there flying, those tiny machines,
the wind-up birds that want to carry my love 
from the cradle of my hand.  I hear them rushing

in the shiny distance, see them buzzing
black rings around my head, trying to calm
the shrieks of their metal wings by diving down at me. 

I think how my thumb swipes across her body
and something thumps inside her chest, how
if those machines would let me, I’d pour oil

along the noise of their necks and clear
the caked ore from the engine of their jaws.  Instead,
I hear the sound of their biplane wings shearing off. 

How I marvel at their speed as they ping past, my hands wanting
but so useless to hold them.


To the Double Helix

I’ve climbed up to the attic to stare                     
into the crib I’ve taken up here, its emptiness
no different than the womb that waits for me

downstairs.  I can’t conceive of a higher power, so I pray
to you, Double Helix of Our Children Unraveling
in the Womb, Our Saint of Apoptosis.  Look

at the candles I’ve arranged and lit, the diet
I’ve given myself over to, the miles I run
in bargain for your favor.  You, from whom

all paternity proceeds, it’s on nights like these
I try to hide, creep farther across the beams
whenever she calls for me.  God,

how I fear the grisly machinery inside of her—        
blood  in the spokes, miswelded DNA, another
month of trying.   But Sir, she’s waiting

and I have to go.  Please fill her basket
with your whisper, your perfect winding ladder. 
There must be rust inside of her to account

for all this dying.


For the Man Waiting by the Monkey Bars

Thirteen was never easy for a boy whose mother
never wanted him home.  So I let you. 

And afterward, you lit us cigarettes and let the latest
AM hits sing from their black bed of scratches. 

I wondered if this was how all grownups did it—dizzy
with nicotine and Top 40 circling on the stereo. 

Still unzipped, you said you had to show me how
your Ouija board worked— fat fingers sliding

over letters that spelled something horrible
if I ever told.   For weeks I climbed over signs

that warned to keep out after dark.  I walked slow
through parking lots, waited by the monkey bars

for your return.  In the nights that flickered
in front of the television, I wondered if you ever touched

your room’s brown paneling and thought of my hair. 
Did you see a star’s slow fall and miss me at all? 

When police tugged you ducking through their lights,
was I the only name on your lips?  Tell me

you were listening to those records to remember how
the sweet tremble in my voice brushed against your ear.  


Ash Bowen’s poems have appeared or will appear in Kenyon Review Online, New England Review, Best New Poets, Cream City Review, Measure, and elsewhere in print and online. He is co-managing editor of Linebreak (www.linebreak.org) and Linebreak Press.  He teaches at the University of Alabama.