Mark Neely

tonight I am kicking down the doors

tonight I am kicking down the doors
three gray rats hunch on their splayed pink feet

in the kitchen and bicker over a ripped-up
bag of Ruffles there’s nothing left

on the walls except a painting of two kids
staring out across a lake at the word NIXON

perched in stenciled letters on the water
I don’t envy painters anymore

they have to give everything away
they all use text in their work nowadays

these painters should hire me to tell them
which words are good which ones stick

in the throat like cancer pills
Nixon is a good word

blister and eclipse and possum
are all good and doorframe

what I can never get behind
is an ugly word for a pretty thing

bucolic is such a word shrike is such a word
Uranus is such a word as is panties

possum is a pretty word for an ugly thing
possums play dead until the dog is gone

haven’t we all done that a time or two
under our black hedges

my old friend Bill Bennett used to charge out drunk
whenever he saw a possum and give it a good kick

before it could scuttle under the neighbor’s fence
when he really got his foot into one

it would curl its evil eraser nose
under its body and lie there dead but Bill

was no dumb predator he would get a running start
and give it another mighty kick or fall down

trying and when he caught one just right he could
get some serious air under a possum once he jacked one clear

over the eight-foot fence when Bill got stoned
he would aim the speakers out the window

and dance in the grass like a wild horse
last I heard he’d become a Scientologist

and believed an alien dictator named Xenu
froze millions of his rebellious subjects

and shipped them to earth in cargo planes
stacked the planes around volcanoes

and set off nuclear explosions in all the volcano craters
God how beautiful that must have been

seventy-five billion years later here I am
trying to run off these three imperturbable rats

who keep circling back for Ruffle crumbs
until I summon the spirit of Bill Bennett

and BOOM BOOM BOOM kick them all out the door
into the front yard and they go running

down the slope dive into the creek and paddle
away with their noses stuck above the water

fuck all the experiments
fuck Bill Bennett and his stoned exuberance

when I smoked pot all I did was watch Raising Arizona
fifty times now I’m too sober in this empty room listening

to the rats moving in the sewer pipe
making their way back towards the house

like buried memories digging for the surface
for twenty years you in the doorframe

shaking your head at the stupid boys
under the long straight hair you wore

then and Bill Bennett’s beautiful crazy
face and a possum ringed with porchlight

flying in its destined arc and landing in the darkness
like an alien spacecraft

Mark Neely's book is Beasts of the Hill (Oberlin College Press). He lives in Muncie, Indiana.

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