Another Chicago Magazine [forthcoming]: "The Other Me", "Collateral Damage"

THE OTHER ME

 

is off walking shelter dogs

like I thought of doing

 

before my mind spun

in the centrifuge

 

and I spent hours

listening to shock jock

 

radio, grimacing. My other

is out there, his smile

 

relentless like Sam Cooke

Live in Harlem while I sit here,

 

trying to sharpen something

that will never dull.

 

He is doing something honest

and his eyes never

 

tremble. Last night

in the store I heard

 

the clerks gossip about

the customer who comes

 

in each day and never

buys anything.

 

 

 

 COLLATERAL DAMAGE

 

Deformed ribcage, calcified

ridge where bone once

sprung in a spasm.

 

The ache when I sleep

on it wrong, a pretty

girl flirting with

 

a piece of kale

stuck in her teeth.

My rib before the boxing

 

match that cracked it, cold

in the shadow of the future.

A friend who would die

 

a day after asking me

to spare a beer. My shrug:

 

Sorry man, we just

don’t have enough.

 

Ghost Town Literary Magazine: "The Girl Who Drowned in Dover Pond", "Threading"

http://ghosttownlitmag.com/toddfollett

 

Iron Horse Literary Review: "UFO Fever"

UFO FEVER

 

It would be simpler if aliens

vibrated the skies over Boston,

 

if there really were

compartments devoted to me.

 

If I was an integer

that made their megabrains

 

gyrate, their ship

could hang above

 

the empires of corn. If they

burned perfect

 

glyphs into our crops,

if compasses lost direction,

 

I would know they were

answering the request

 

I trampled into snow: Please

            land here. I could

 

            feel the stardust inventing

my arms and legs,

 

so much empty space

become a body

 

I almost forgot

was out there in the dark. 

Flights: "Janus Nocturne" and "Ghost Fever"

JANUS NOCTURNE

this night my funeral

shroud, last chance;

a ghost ocean, god’s

heart; this night her

bated breath, pursed

lips, razorblade smile;

the last beer, final hit;

a snoozed alarm; this

night her thighs on my

shoulders writhing; a hot

plate; revenge served

immediately; a knife

in the teeth of god moving

over the face

of the waters; the long

subterranean tunnel

in Chicago that connects

the Red and Blue lines at

Washington Street;

very late at night

you can only think

which end is closest

and how fast you could

make it if you had to;

this night the thunder

of my dad racing

downstairs for me

because I took too long

to find the right

tool; that sun gone dark

in the hole of a gun

pointed at your face;

the resolve in my mind

as I planned that crime

that would have put

all of us away

for a thousand nights;

this night the devil’s

orgasm, the secret

knowledge, the humming

skin of the world;

this night the frog

I squeezed too hard

as a child to see

what would happen;

this night my

            tattered blanket

 

 

 

GHOST FEVER

 

The way I watched bugs

or soil or the imperfections

in a wall. How my eyes went

from hazel to a cow’s brown,

my hair blond and curly

to straight and dark; my dad’s

anger when he saw me

lost inside my head.

The way my ma went off

to sell pharmaceuticals

all over Boston and I would

go with her when I was sick;

the babysitter and I

watching a ghost movie

and just before the climax

my ma came back

and drove the girl home.

The way that sometimes, if you’re

not back fast enough, you

only see the credits roll.

 

How my dad went

from flashed teeth and guitar

to an endless grimace, my

ma from cigarettes

to perfect manhattans

while her hair went from

a poof of exploding still-life

to crimped and mousy.

 

How the car that hit

the dog before I was born

came back in his joints

until he couldn’t sit or lay down.

 

The way an obese girl

with curly blonde hair

and a wad of bills asked

if I would have sex with her

for a hundred and twenty dollars.

How that girl told me

of the house in her head

with a green door

no one opens.

The way we all have

a green door in our heads

no one opens. 

See Spot Run, "Bones", "How to Remove Unwanted Growths"

https://seespotrunalma.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/how-to-remove-unwanted-growths-by-todd-follett/

https://seespotrunalma.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/bones-by-todd-follett/

Natural Bridge, "Remember Jacob Wetterling"

I wrote this about a boy who was abducted from Minnesota at gunpoint decades ago. There was a tradition in the town he was from that they all left the porchlights going all night on the anniversary of the date he was abducted. As this poem went to publication, his body was found after being missing for over twenty years.

 

 

REMEMBER JACOB WETTERLING

 

They leave their porch lights on

tonight to mark the erasure

of a young boy taken at gunpoint

 

26 years ago. Light is the dark

falling to its knees for the kids

swallowed by winter nights.

 

Our bare bulb porch light

the moths keep getting

burned by, the failed journeys

 

of insects that tried to find

warmth in the miracle, badly

burned and fluttering

 

in gravity’s undertow.

Leave a glow for the eyes

that don’t shine anymore;

 

a tire losing its treads,

leaving them every place

it briefly touched.

 

A tire spinning back on itself

even as it touches the world

from one horizon to the next.

Spoon River Poetry Review: "The Kids of Walpole"

THE KIDS OF WALPOLE

 

From the edge of the woods the highway cars

would sound like waves, intervals too rushed and regular

to be natural. The daylight would hang like an old drape

in a strange bedroom. From there we could smell the pine fence

the German Shepherd barked through,

the one I dared myself to hop and make it back over.

I think I’m still there, clocking the possibilities,

listening. We’d hear other young voices

arcing over houses in the circle, alongside magpies

protecting their territory. In the summer, days grew still

as a lizard on a sun-baked rock. Imagine the strangeness

of our families secreted away, the locked doors

at grownup parties, the magazines of naked women

we knew were in the Thomas’ downstairs bathroom.

Walking down the street, our eyes drifted to the blue door

where a kind old lady everyone called Chicky

would poke her head out in winter, offering cocoa and toys.

Sometimes we went behind the Cullen’s, past the swamp,

to a fence with a hole we would stare in, wondering

if the family we spied on was normal –

another way of asking if we were.

We’d see the cold sun peek out as we walked

the mile to the bus stop in winter, hovering shameless

as the man who made breakfast naked by the window

every morning. Huge pine trees loomed, messages

we had no primer for. While we waited on the corner,

we could look at the industrial park where we’d sled down

steep ravines called Suicide Hill and fly off snow ramps,

sliding under rows of parked tractor trailers.

Picture us awake in our beds, shining our close calls like medals.

 

 

The Pedestal Magazine, "Go Fever"

GO FEVER

 

Nights, I think of the moon’s cataract

glinting off the stunted teeth of bear traps, the releases so strong

most men can’t hold both ends to set the mouth. Many

use a long wooden plank, leverage versus brute strength.

The clouds like floaters on the eye. A lady shines spotlights

on the teenagers smoking in nearby driveways,

which is another way of saying Remember me. Count the ways

you ask to be remembered, walking home holding your dignity

like a shy cat. I am crossing the street the long way,

I am setting fires in the churches of beached debris.

Words are nothing, but the kind of nothing that keeps you

motionless in bed waiting for sleep, the kind of nothing

that follows you home and waits at the window.

My great uncle was stabbed in a bar in Oklahoma

arguing with a man. His sentences made a tunnel

through which death came. The sun is always cold

in your memories. Towns along the river lined up, browning

like old teeth with nothing to bite. We have forgotten

the moon again, the same as every sunrise before this.

Love hangs on a nail in the shed, a white line

traced around it so you notice if it’s missing;

the chalk around victims, vessels buzzing

from the force of their departure. We could be those rockets

that shed most of themselves as the pieces burn fuel,

become weight. What remains to sizzle into the vast? Mrs. Cullen

drove us home from school, cutting a conversation short when

the newscaster said the space shuttle exploded somewhere in the ghost

ocean of the sky. Bring out your dead, give a nice picture

to the journalist. In the space industry, "go fever" refers to rushing

to get a task done while overlooking potential mistakes.

The other kids and I in the car. I told my ma later

I could remember seeing it explode in the sky, but she said

it must have been my memory fooling me. My family in the year I was born

is a mystery I will never solve, like the kid we called “Bruiser”

having a seizure at school, the way we pretended

it was more interesting than scary. All I saw was a parked ambulance,

them wheeling him on a gurney. I kept seeing that moment

in my mind the rest of the day. Moments change, but some linger.

I see them as badges of my moving. There is a reason

to be afraid of silence, a lawnmower that quits

and might never start again. There is reason to adore

it, the feeling after you’ve jumped in the pile of leaves

and you wish you could stay, pretending you don’t hear

your father’s foghorn voice or the overweight youth pastor,

who cried when she told us Jesus died for her. She led sing-a-longs

and said we were all beautiful. Enough of these drops

can make an ocean, too deep to see bottom,

the ecstasy and dread of not knowing. Sing for the bottom

you cannot imagine, the grass that lay in the shade.

Sing for the kids who cannot outlast

their parents. Praise shipwrecks like trinkets beaded

around death’s slender neck. Praise the floaters on your fishing line

showing the unseen deep. My father kept his sorrow

wrapped in a monogrammed handkerchief in his left back pocket.

He sighed and shook his head if you asked to see. Home

is a dance you learn over time, a hillside in the path

of a ceaseless fire burning forty miles away. Disasters

breed miracles, water pulling back to lay bare the seaweed and shells.

Swimming is a dialogue with vastness you learn

over time.  The plastic landmass of our waste curdles cold Pacific water.

Most magic is done with mirrors because they create whole things

from pieces: that moment when you reached out as a child

to touch your reflection, wondering what it would feel like.

A mirror is sand burned so badly

it can never go back. This morning

I saw trucks driving into the protestors

bit by bit, the people rushing to put their cold hands

between the iron slats onto the wide-eyed pigs,

one woman sobbing, calling them babies. The slaughterhouse

security guard yelled THIS IS NOT A PLACE FOR PEOPLE.

Near my house, a church board says: “Earth is a pit stop

on the way to Heaven”.  I think of the back of every billboard

and mirror; the back of my wife’s slender neck quickening

as we make love and forget the dark half of the moon

is a conglomerate of damage, that leaves aren’t a nuisance

when they’re still tethered to the tree.

DMQ Review, "Bukowski:"

BUKOWSKI:

 “Almost everyone is born a genius and buried an idiot.”

 

You can’t find me now. You’ll just bother

the guy in his teal house on Longwood Ave

near the 10 freeway

who wishes the kid who

used to get his ass kicked in that old bathroom

didn’t get so damned famous.

 

That wasn’t home anyway, I was always

at the LA Central library, losing myself

in torrents of words penned by men who had articulated

the unlit halls of my future.

 

If I was still around, it would be in the red/blue lights

scrimshawing shadows among the broken glass

spread over the Santa Monica Freeway at night like confetti at a wedding,

the great wide glittering miracle of us.

 

I’d be in the screeching engine rubbing itself raw,

the threadbare carpets in Hollywood apartments,

the spider rebuilding the web the teenagers keep burning.

 

I wouldn’t be in the grace said before meals, in morning papers or ball games.

 

I went back to the Longwood house once as an old man and wrote

about the beatings, sitting in the same bathroom

where the world lifted its mask.

I haven’t returned there since, but I’m sure the paint still peels,

the grout’s still perforated like my skin, and that door still won’t close tight.

The smeared windows are my eyes, dulled with time

and defined by the way the light frames the broken glass

to throw streaks of brilliance across the walls.