Poetry from Carl Boon
The Other America
When I was tender in the breasts
and still fourteen, I started sticking pins
in the numb flesh of my elbows.
And because it didn’t hurt the way I needed,
I set fires in my bedroom, small ones
at first, hymn book pages, Barbie hair,
Popsicle sticks. I didn’t want to die,
but I wanted to know how death might feel,
the stagnant knees, the shouts
from the farthest room fading.
On my fifteenth birthday I blackmailed
the druggist for a bottle of Secanol
and listened to President Johnson on TV
until his voice became banjos in Arkansas,
slow and holy sex with the boy on Summit
who didn’t know my name. Instead of
being there, I dreamed Vietnam, green
consumed by blue and purple flowers,
women on rice-swamps slowly turning
against themselves. The colonel
who came to the front stoop
carried a flag and called my brother a hero,
so I drank six water-glasses full of whiskey
and lay on the stale green couch
and the pastor put his bland hand
on my knee. I am here for you, my father said,
his mouth a horrible grimace,
his eyelids dastardly. I am here for you,
but he smelled like model airplane glue
and his mistress’s perfume. The weed
transformed the demons into gods,
made guitars flesh and flesh guitars,
and I lingered in the cellar, watching things:
bicycles gone to rust, tomatoes in jars,
my dead aunt’s Electric Galaxy dishwasher.
It sat there like an icon, spraying imaginary
plates with imaginary water. A calendar
from 1955, a cello—they’d all absorbed
some ghosts forced to come back out again.
I sat on the steps and twisted my hair.
I wept for my brother and America,
the land my teachers said I loved.
Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.