Two Poems

by C. Derick Varn

Hapax legomenon

Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.- Kafka

Why stop at the ankle when you can
render the whole bone: confuse the
marrow for affection. You add lilac
and lavender to the stew—make
the offal fragrant, the morass slides
down easier, if the smell sweetens
a bitter deal. This is how you write
about cancer: mostly, it’s boring,
long periods of thinned veins, vomit,
fragility, and thus hard to write
without clenched teeth of cliches
overcooked, mushed, nothing left
to bite. There are no birds entrails
in the miasma, you feed me either:
birds are dreadfully boring, even
the cormorants and jays that lounge
in my poems find the analogies
to flight limpid, to slide into the gullet
like stale potatoes, blighted
by sunlight when they grew,
their inner nightshade churning
your guts afterward. When you
sap on love, glutinous and viciously
viscous, dripping down the
throat like okra slime, you
note that we will both feel
full. In the distance, bone-white
lightning fries the short-leaf pine,
sears the sap. I will say this only
once: pain is pain, not a symbol.
The desert grass reduced to straw
with husks of rhizome roots, so
the thunder brings kindling for
our meal. The blood-meal of
our host is ourselves, you strip
the even the marrow and in
the end, as flesh boils up to water,
our words linger in the air. In
times like this, even Serrano’s
Christ in the deep amber of
his urine allows us to see
the shadows of the sacral,
the tumor seems like mad
bursting of metabolic life.

Desert Sentiments

The valley’s purslane tastes of salt on tip
of the tongue, the soft slime sours as I
step in the fine grit hosting the desert
puncture vine when there haunts the ghost
of rain. My heart stitched together from
red clay and kudzu, but the abrading
sand carved my hands, the sun
hardened my heart like burnt oak.

My second skin brittles and blisters,
but staring into the half-empty beer
I can attempt a genealogy: my first
skin a map buried in South Georgia—
x marks the spot where the Prussian
soldiers are to aim after the technicality
of a trail. Neither self or it’s lack: I
wait for the sun to burn away the
memory. Sunset will scrape uncertain

reminiscences, the structures of canyons
and sandstones cut into my heart. Nothing
particularly erotic about returning to you
cut, bleeding, and dry to bursting—yet
how we can compare scars without
losing some clothes. The taste of
succulents and water mimicking the
lingering of skin—I miss your winter
evenings but scabs of late summer

scurry like Box Elder bugs and my
mind of bright noon heat comes
around to the different kind
of solitude, one only wishes to share.


C. DERICK VARN IS A POET AND TEACHER NOW LIVING IN SALT LAKE CITY. HIS FIRST COLLECTION, APOCALYPTICS, IS AVAILABLE FROM UNLIKELY BOOKS. HE WAS A POETRY REVIEWER FOR THE HONG KONG REVIEW OF BOOKS. HE ALSO READS THEORY AND NONFICTION FOR ZERO BOOKS AND IS A PODCAST CO-HOST AND CO-PRODUCER FOR SYMPTOMATIC REDNESS AND ALTERNATIVES.
HE HAS SPENT MOST OF THE LAST DECADE IN SOUTH KOREA, MEXICO, AND EGYPT. HE TRAVELED WITH HIS PARTNER THROUGH ASIA, TURKEY, AND MEXICO. HE STUDIES THE HISTORY OF SOCIALISM AND ALTERNATIVE POLITICAL MOVEMENTS. HE WANTS TO BE MONGOLIAN HORSE ARCHER WHEN HE GROWS UP.

 

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