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Joseph Daniel Duffy

Two Poems

Joseph Daniel Duffy

Komunyakaa in the Visiting Room

I light the cigarette 

in your black curls 

a pink sun runs over

our triacontagon spirit ship

you stand in the kitchen in a dead 

band tee shirt 


your mate runs back to us 

from the independent 

biscuit place under the highway bridge 

synthetic psilocybin digitizing 

the gulf universe the live 


oaks vibrating mosquitos 

fluorescent and I in the quiver 

you standing over the biscuits 

turning the butter 


knife into a hash pipe 

years before I wore purple 

you invite me to try the butter 

knife trick lifting 


your head up from your tea 

the sea behind us 

the sea always over 


our shoulder even swimming 

in the Spring River in July the tea 

water the cow run-off

the pop-up camper the rope 


swing the Stones 

in the corporate arena 

in Memphis you half-dead 

in the greyhound station in Memphis 

in an eastern purple knit 

cap fifteen years after the Stones 

four years ago after the Greyhound 

station in Memphis 


we read Komunyakaa in the state

run treatment center visiting 

room we chain smoke the interstate 

to the family reunion we swim 

in the Spring River in Arkansas 

as kids we finish the joke 


the other leaves hanging 

out there like rosemary 

between us and the light 

and in the nights we drink

we drink too close 


your song with a secret 

as the song 

I play you in Oxford 

the midnight I turn twenty-one 


we’re drunk on Maker’s 

uncle gave us in the hill country  

we steal on the coast 

out of the subdued supermarket 

the corporate bookstore 

the Chevron depot 


I hit you in the morning 

before school 

in the mini van’s front seat 

you push my tooth in my lip 

with your left combat boot, 


we trip in the disaster trailer 

in a drifting fall in a green 

spirit ball its interior cabin lights 

awash in all the flow of pier lights 

the ceiling of an aquarium,  


you hold me on oak steps painted sky

blue on the front porch in the hill country 

you tell me our love is depressed 

I am drunk and you drape your arm 

over my denim shoulder 

a crying blurring black 

into the cedar horizon 


we bury you before

rain comes to turn

a dust world a dark paste 

your inner circle continues 

on the grass edge of the bending 

oyster shell drive of the graveyard

named dead French 


our uncles sing no more 

no more darkness in ambering holy oxygen

warming us in the living pines 

half shadow half bird song light 


we protect your coffin in Catholic 

skins you bury in your signature 

woolen pin stripe three piece 

our love homolyzing all of us your body 


your inner circle surviving 

in ruined Hot Topic and hair dye  

half my innards 

in a crescent in the last pew


you are born on the gulf river 

you read forever from every country 

you write every night and outsing 


Cohen on Cohen in the top of your New Orleans closet 

hot as hell in the summer past a broken fan 

your brother watches you silent 

from the doorway a palmetto


sprouts in the hole in the pine floors 

beneath and between his feet as he weeps 

over the phone out in Texas 


seeing you in the morning alone 

your spirit louder than your voice louder than the song 


your wry amendments to the impenetrable genus

the lyrics you danced over like a spilled cat  

in the strange atmosphere you perfected 


on Mandeville street in the months 

you spent sleeping in Elysian’s medians 


you first move to the city 

sleeping above the washers of the laundromat 

and the kindness of the strange owner 

picking on the corner of Josephine 

your rat on your shoulder hiking 

into a sundowned St. Claude 

a route 44 Styrofoam cup of original Coke 


in your left hand a teen age 

year swimming in your ear 

your forever voice your love

Possum Kingdom Lake

Like a dog breaking 

out of its nest I return

dope-cracked, crimson 

honey. My hand,


passes the roadside 

hope cross 

in a ruining light,


on the drive to Possum 

Kingdom Lake—to the bullfrog 

sonor—brushes the electric cattle 


fence. I bundle the hunting 

wire. I measure the death 

calls from the field’s arrow 


heads. I kiss

the mudbank. I cup 

the mud to my lips. 


I unsnap the pearl 

holster. I flash the mega 

chrome pistol 


up against the robin’s egg blue. 

All I see is white,

plaid blue light.


I lower the hammer, 

aim at the head 

of the copperhead

and the bird 

in me is broken. 

Joseph Daniel Duffy is a writer from Gautier, Mississippi. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Mississippi, he lives in Austin, Texas.

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