Thomas Bates



I find flies swarming from the temple
husk of a hollowed-out bull in a dry gulch
midway between Greeley and Severance.
I follow the arroyo a good distance
but it leads nowhere, so I return to the bull.
Its eyes, glazed and frazzled like Roman glass,
spark against my light, but the flies drone
unfazed in their worship of the head. Otherwise
the thing looks pedigree, fine for breeding,
I canít see why any man would let it
lie here of all places, out of the way.


No one much travels the arroyo these days.
Last century, a band of French traders abandoned
their powder supply nearby what was then the river.
A rough blizzard steered them south
so they didnít return. All that ammunition still buried
is why neighbors around here worry their kids
about straying too far. Plus these small towns,
no longer isolated as stars, get dug up
by big-city folk, too much intermarriage . . .†††††


Usually itís down wind they keep the cage
the catch slowly dies in. The catch slowly dies,
or the glory within it, what have you,
flags like the last sparkler on the Fourth.
If itís lucky enough to claim a Protestant birth,
they bury it in the tipped cemetery on the outskirts.


I search longómy shirt sticking to my backó
I find an infection in its hindquarters. The poor thing
useless as dead before dead. The fall set its head
open to the eager congregation. Like Joshua,
the flies filed indolently toward the spoil.

Their million eyes glitter, cheap as foil,
in front of my light, it glows past them
and casts a bright oval on the opposite ditch wall.
Careless, I light a cigarette. Let the rumors lie buried.


Let other lips unbury rumors.
In Greeley, in some kitchen lit by seven lips,
seven lamps lie dormant. The lips discuss
county politics and a neighborhood fraternity
that studies too loud. The lips quiet to sleep
in terms of bucolic security, alien, hazard. They die down.
And someone quits the city unknown.


And Severance has grown on an ammunition dump
yet is still thoroughly alive. Executives from Denver drive
sixty miles just for the oysters. The town
even has an ATM machine, which, if you havenít heard,
is an automated telling machine machine.††††††
One day Severance will subsidize the nitroglycerine rapture.


The genuflected catch moans its capture,
in the ditch, the cage, I walk too late
tonight to save it. Or if a band of men
moved down this river during summer on a raft
would they have wrecked on its racked spine
or glided along seamless as a mouth depleted of words?
Sooner the flies will exhaust their ammunition,
will turn their tribe to the south, and then what?
Will they find another mantra and grow fat
or starve themselves on the fattening?


I have lost my light but am not lost.
Any hour I could carry myself back to town.
But somewhere beneath this arroyo,
the current of the powder shifts, lingering
to rip a river in the ground, to sweep me away
from this infected breeder, from this toppled church.
Somewhere in the earth a flash stirs.

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Current | Previous    Submit | Editors    Join | Donate    Links | Contact

Sundress Publications