Three Poems

Marvin Shackelford



Little boy full of beetles,

girl with lightning hair,

playground where sulfur eloped

and fluoride-mad, pregnant school teachers

ran fingers into the teeth

of invisible rooster combs:

Wake up, wake up, wake

the shadowed clock of years

spent racing with white paste

slowing your tongue, staining your clothes.


Think about the dancer you could have been––

ballrooms, auditoriums, bars, strip clubs.

You prommed too fast, wove

grownup time to monkey bars.

A boy wrapped his fingers around your arm,

a boy stuck his fingers

up inside you,

a boy stuck inside.

It goes like that.

Picture of a classroom where you learned

feeling good feels bad, but it feels good.

Angel of your heart, relax

the trumpets.






The flowers grow purple and spindly before

catamaraning the yard like leftover flyers

stuffed wholesale under a windshield wiper.

Charting the course means dialing the stars

long-distance and blonde with a map

that covers only the old world.

New continents shift meaningless.

Once when irises grew fuller of life,

in days before the raising of the sun,

a grandmother, née mother, dipped to her knees

and tore away an ocean of weeds, gripped

the thornier side of good-morning undergrowth

and tore it out the lilac color of

a dead girl’s eyes. When it’s reported

in her grandson’s day and age, stories

of contact lenses are a shifting

slope of reasons no family loves any woman

who will drive pregnant on the waves, doors locked,

only to press a pistol to her sternum and say, Okay,

okay, there is a seed of something planted here.

No shipping procedures carry her up

from the long, bad lay-down. Where it settles

on her body beats old age and doesn’t

show at all, made up for eternity and perfect.






Inside you, a neighborhood overrun by dogs of men too poor to stretch beyond a snarl. They empty the streets in absence of sun, know only the breath drawn at once by a dozen bodies. When they finally learn the miracle of an opposing thumb and simple tools, you will weep.

And when kudzu thickens over windows rusted shut, when dust settles dull on unused paths and cars forget their secretest names, the roving will root. The presence of stillness lies: footprints, too few toes. Wake up and shake your holy grates until they open to the flow, build again what cannot be repaired. Once air refuses the wood and stone of blood run solid, there will come an endless army of bulldozers mounted with flamethrowers meant for invisible, deadly crowd-control. These things our weeping will not pause.

 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Marvin Shackelford is author of a poetry collection, Endless Building (Urban Farmhouse). His stories and poems can be found in various print journals and online such as Pithead Chapel, Rust+Moth, FiveChapters, Hobart, Hot Metal Bridge and elsewhere. He resides in the Texas Panhandle with his wife, Shea, and earns a living in agriculture.