Christopher Citro's poetry appears or is forthcoming in Poetry East, Arts & Letters Prime, Fourteen Hills, The Cincinnati Review, the minnesota review, The Cortland Review, Tar River Poetry, Harpur Palate, and elsewhere. He has taught creative writing at Indiana University and the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. His poetry has twice been featured on Verse Daily, and his awards include the 2006 Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award for Poetry and the Darrell Burton Fellowship in Creative Writing. He is currently completing an MFA in poetry at Indiana University.
A Sea Voyage and the Attendant Perspective
The beavers built a dam at the foot of our bed,
and now the mattress is beginning to float.
I reach out to put my arm around you,
knowing you're prone to seasickness
as we begin to bob and tip. A seagull passes
low across the headboard. When I see them
in the parking lot down at the mall,
they seem unpleasant, like flying rats.
How odd, I say as I reach to bring my other arm
around you, how majestic they are
when seen in their proper environment.
For We, the Wide Awake
The backyard at night, powdered bone
spread from porch to picnic table.
The sky as blue as noon, clouds even
white with shimmering edges, the sort
out of which birds fly. Being night,
only bats emerged, swarming space,
bringing a darkness to dark,
clearing the air of stinging insects,
of moths, peeking into curtained windows,
looking for us—I'm guessing—
as we lie awake in bed talking in circles.
"Is that not a robin's peek and tut?" "Is that
a bluebird, a cooling breeze of jasmine?"
Plenty of Room Here Under the Big Top
The old man who lives behind our house
told us this was where the traveling circus used to sleep.
We smiled and believed him—but only a little.
Then while digging in the backyard for a petunia bed
I hit the elephant's broad back with the shovel.
Carefully I bent down to clear dark soil
from the wide, pale forehead. I called to you
where you were prying dandelions out of the lawn
with a steak knife. And you came running.
(The woman I love.) You leapt into the hole with me
and together we dug and scraped away to get
down to the elephant's feet, its ruby sandals glinting
in the bright spring light. Now and then,
I'd look over and catch a glimpse of your breasts
shiny with sweat and dusted with soil inside your
black tank top. You, too busy digging to notice,
clearing a stray hair from your eyes now and then.
It took hours and hours, but there she was,
ten feet below the lemonade sweating on our porch:
one perfect elephant preserved somehow just for us,
leather headdress encrusted with gold and precious stones.
I looked at you, almost unrecognizable now
for soil, and you smiled at me—your teeth showing
like jewels through the dirt. I climbed out of our hole
and reached for you. You took my hand.
Homeschooling Is Really Taking Off
Hallways shake with the muffled buffet
of nothing echoing back from nothing.
Paint bubbles from cinderblock walls
until even from outside it sounds as if
a herd of mastodons (extinct) are about
to tear the place down from the inside out.
No one's out there to hear, though.
Just one car in the lot, a blue Volkswagen.
In an office whose door never opens,
sits the Principal of The Great Unknown
Elementary School—hunched over a crystal set,
sending recorded samples of the silence
into the sky, the dark matter, the something
in the nothingness scientists tell us
must be up there for the everything else
that is something, what little there is of it,
not to come crashing in on itself.
And for any second graders
who may have lost their way up there.