Casey Thayer received an MFA from Northern Michigan University and has poems published or forthcoming in American Poetry Review , Devil's Lake, Poetry, and elsewhere. Currently, he teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County.
Love Poem in the Spirit of Thelma & Louise
In the soot-shade of the razed tire plant
you had laid in the backseat of your Olds,
big boat of a thing, the one
with the hula dancer melted to the dash,
& your dachshund head-down
on the front seat wondering
why you cried. You went everywhere
with that dog in those days
before you crated her
& swung by the shelter.
Boxed-up apartment, life left on the street
for thrifty hipsters to pick through,
decks of cards missing all the queens,
lamp with a broken neck.
The day you skipped town
with the bar safe it rained all morning
& the barber put a hole
through the back of his throat.
Maybe you ran afoul
of the law in Lawrence & spent a night
on a bench in a bus station.
Maybe you sold clothes to desperate men
to make rent or washed
your underwear in the sink
of a rest stop bathroom. I’ve imagined you
in innumerous high jinx, near-misses.
If you show back up, I swear
we’ll get belly-sick on wine. I swear
I’ll clear your name, kneel next to you
in the confessional booth.
You’ll find me on the back porch
of the petrol off Washington.
You tiring at the wheel,
skidding gravel & nearly losing
the center line. Oh, to see your knuckles
on the wheel of that giant beast,
to know the world returns us
this crush of fire, this set of jaws
chewing through our insides as if
the sun would never short out.
Joshua, Judges, Ruth
When we memorized
the books, we made up
“Joshua judges Ruth”
“Dude, or Ron, or me.”
Our moms had “male friends”
The Rons bought us
The Rons said, “Wait here
while I talk to your mother.”
Sometimes we drew on scrap paper, sometimes
we memorized the gospels:
“Gospel According to Matthew,”
“The Gospel of Marky Mark” we called him,
“Gospel According to Garth,” patron saint
of friends in low places.
Here is a fire.
Here we are standing
outside of it.
In case his notebooks were destroyed,
Mandelstam’s wife memorized all his poems.
At night, she’d dream of fire,
How curious, she thought.
They make such small flames.
We wanted to add a verse:
“God so loved the world
that he brought his only son to heaven
so they could cut shots on the wide green field
of a pool table.”
In our gospels, God
was an older brother handing down
mixtapes and Playboys with all the pics snipped out.
In our book, the benediction
called for soundproof walls
and dissolved curfews.
We know how it feels to be a language
with loose grammatical rules
and a shallow vocabulary.
What can we call this?
We have so few words.
Before things dissolved,
my mother wrote passages
on the walls of her bedroom,
on the sea of her bed.
Then the white paint, the touch-ups,
ghost of a verse burning through.
We kept three commandments:
One: Bring the paddle when I ask you.
Two: Remember, the Rons work night shift
so keep it down already this isn’t a circus.
Three: Do not covet the neighbor kid’s house
or the neighbor kid’s playset
or the neighbor kid’s dad.
When we rode around on bikes,
we pointed out upstairs windows,
We asked each other:
“Which bedroom would be yours?”
The backyard gardens all tilled up
and the streets lined with the lit matches
of maple trees.
What did we say about that war?
We lost all our words in the burning.
It started with a bunch of gospels
we pared back to petition
and now we know nothing
of pleasure but plea.