Recent Work By Ross Hickerson

I was a block of ore until I was poured
into the mold of my mother. I am iron cast and cold.
I inhale and the oxygen makes me rust.

I am seventeen years old.  I tell unimportant lies
about myself because it makes me feel guilty,
and guilt makes the days last longer.
I am afraid of dying.  I am seventeen and my girlfriend used to be
a prostitute, but I am seventeen and I don’t care,
I love her and how she is a cup that holds me.
She has hair that fills my hands like a fountain
of root beer and laughs
when I tell her I love her.

I am eighteen and the surface of my mother cracks.
The flood of beer that pours from her shattered mouth washes me
into the street, and it makes me rust more.
I am homeless and a prostitute wears me around her neck
like a knife on a chain;  I shelter between her breasts.
It is all i know of warmth.

Nineteen and she has eyes made of honey.
They stick to me.  Our apartment is an anthill.
I am nineteen and my muscles march under my skin.
I pour kerosene into my hollow guts.
I tell myself that I will be a candle,
or a lamp, but I keep starting fires
when my cup overflows.

I am twenty years old.
I am only full of rust and when the flood in me moves
it is not breathing, it is my sewerpipe bones
telling lies to make the day longer.  I am twenty years old.
I love her and we carry the same secret home at night.
I know she still fucks for money.
I am leaving her because she looks at me
with my mother’s eyes.  The guilt sticks to my pipes.
I wash it down with gasoline, I am slick with gasoline,
I am burning down our house with my mouth.

(For John Rybicki)

John, I’ve been holding in the howling.
It wears me out to parties and dinner;
a cheap evening jacket, its pockets bulging
with receipts and bent daisies and freight
trains and God and nickels and it spills
from me, John.  The animal sneaks
through the tears in my seams,
it opens my mouth and it spits.
The stain on the sidewalk,
it looks like my face, John.

Used to be, I would bleed on command.
Now I’m chasing rivers with a spoon,
trying to save something for later.