Two Poems

by Aaron Krol Issue: Fall 2015

Sonny Liston


I can’t tell it the way my father tells it.
But in 1962, Sonny Liston
met a man named Floyd Patterson in public
and beat him until he couldn’t stand.
My grandpa thought it might go the other way.
The whole thing was caught on camera.

The country was just learning, then,
you don’t hit your neighbor or your wife.
Sometimes you found yourself in an all-night diner
holding a butter knife with your whole fist.
On TV they were pulling barrels of chlorine
from the Mississippi River, water brushing

the steel contours, the public on the banks
in government masks. The knife by bits got warm,
and its weight and size sat flush in your palm
like a bone you’d grown to fit your situation.
Were you the one who picked it up?

So you didn’t hit your wife or your neighbor.
But you still watched Liston fight Patterson,
and let your two sons and your daughter
stay up late to see. It was okay to tell them
which one you thought would beat the other.
Three years later, the marines were in Vietnam.

Anyway, like I said, my father tells it better.

Words for What Light Does


What do those dreams mean, where the wild
is acres of juniper flats blasted in the dirt?
Identical hills of tobacco flower and blue-tinted sage,
sand crackling in the pines, and a compass needle

spinning out in its cage like the heart of a mule deer.
Stillness a weather and topography.
Wind hollows out the scorched air like the skin
of a gourd, rose tunnels cut in quartz.

In the dream, I’m rummaging through
words for what light does around the bodies
of blown-back juniper trees — on jeweled backs of birds
arranged like pieces at a Turkish chessboard —

or herded by a crop duster over the hills.
In the dream, the land is unnatural as an orchard,
hostile as the air of the moon.
Shines and shimmers, I think, gleams and glimmers,

smoothing it out inside, trying my best,
but not close. No, not very.
And out of the sky’s marrow comes the sap
in which the exact world is suffocated and preserved.

That’s all there is, in the dream.
Quiet ricochets like midges against a lamp.
I never find the word the scavenger ants
are carving tenderly from rock, passing down the line,

their language an architecture. Light beheads
the animals slinking in the wild nettles and brush.

Aaron Krol grew up in Baltimore and now lives with his wife in Boston, where he works as a science reporter and with the speculative fiction journal Strangelet. He received his MFA from Emerson College. His poems have appeared in 32 Poems, the Kenyon Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, the Cossack Review, and elsewhere.