Wooden Boys: Poems by Michael Hurley. Number 11 in the Keystone Chapbook Series, selected by Brent Goodman.
Cover image: antique quilting fabric, Pennsylvania, circa 1870.
Release date: August 25, 2014 [125 copies]
Michael Hurley‘s work has appeared in The Sycamore Review, Weave Magazine, The Fourth River, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere. He is earning his MFA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. But his home is in Pittsburgh.
Spanish Civil War
I. The Boy Made of Stone
There is a boy down the quarry
with bones like rubber
fish; half his face is missing
and half his face is trying
to die. He licks salt from the stones
that crack when they freeze, stacks rocks along the river.
The men piled flesh
like stacks of trading cards,
took photographs, traded bones for boots.
And when the men took the town, they took the valley,
and when they wandered
down the gold path
looking for rebels
and hookers, they went to the quarry
to watch the boy dance;
barefoot and saintly, they slit his throat.
II. A Soldier Laments:
The open back of a flat bed truck,
rusted through so we could see the road without looking
and our thirst turned us from men to camels.
The compass shook this way, and we came, starting fires.
Red hills, gnats, and a face like a mask or
a lantern, filled with ash. A life lost in the fifteen
minutes it takes to drag a cigarette across the sand.
To kill like this is our chore,
just as it was the chore
of those first men to reach
the deep sea; those men
in heavy helmets and tons of brass who surfaced with hooks of cavern fish;
asking not to see the sun,
but what the earth had to offer:
the core, all ash and lava,
the sea, all bluish black.
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