2 Poems by Matthew Gavin Frank

Driving into Centurion

In the pasture, the bees have, again,
built their hive into the ribcage

of the milk cow.  They fly like braids,
the ones your mother wore when

she was able to stomach only green
maple leaves, swallow and speak

of speedtraps and of silkworms.  
Her barrettes were homespun, her

breath, beet red and terribly
expensive.  She would have called

this cow a goddess, but we know
better.  We know better than to buy

the soiled macadamia nuts from the men
who build their fires on freeway shoulders,

tangerines from the boy with the moth-
shaped sores on his lips.  In his mouth,

you assure me, some kind of beautiful
light, defying wattage and the blood

in our wrists.  Here, you say, only
the flowers have bulbs.  Flickering,

she told us: this is all a passing through,
a rope that, when electrified, we can

confuse with the cobra who spits,
the cow who goes mad with want

and biting. When we gave her
her last kisses, our mouths stung

for days.  How we lowed and lowed,
noses low to the earth.  When the bees

have coupled, finally unstuck themselves
from bone, when their whitest song

is finished, we can settle
to the top, drink to the fat

of the reformation. 



Here, we milk the sleeping cow as if
climbing out of a well.  This is brown
water and a string of yellow scarves,

dyed with saffron
and the dust of dried

paper wasps.  Written on their wings,
the rough drafts of our wills.  Again,
the thresher goes to the son.  On

the nightly news,
a quick shot

of an exposed brain, the commercial
for biscuits and butter substitute.  
And now, a stranger knocks on the door,

looking to buy
a cigarette and two

ounces of sugar, his wife and son waiting
on the idling tractor, confusing the wildfire
for the waterspout.  In the diesel, the black

mirage of all first
lovers, and their pink

gecko barrettes, the boundary where good
dreams go bad.  Sometimes the tongue that
feels best is neurotoxic, at best.  He pays

with a sack of chicken
heads—thirteen count—

his uncooperative wristwatch falling
forward and forward to his fingers.
Tonight, his throat will be sweet, open

to this plea for rescue,
receipt.  In the barn,

someone has driven a long nail through
through the centermost udder.  This
is a mistake.  When I press the head,

she dreams
of her calves.


Matthew Gavin Frank is the author of the nonfiction books, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food, Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, Pot Farm, and Barolo, the poetry books, The Morrow Plots, Warranty in Zulu, and Sagittarius Agitprop, and 2 chapbooks. He teaches at Northern Michigan University, where he is the Nonfiction Editor of Passages North.  This winter, he tempered his gin with two droplets (per 750ml) of tincture of odiferous whitefish liver.  For health.


Elijah Tubbs