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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Six killed in interstate chain...; The insane history...; 10 things...;

By: Patrick Wilcox

Six killed in interstate chain pileup outside Flagstaff

We spent entire lifetimes wondering

what wounds looked like when not beaten back

by headlights, why they begged for blood

and more deft blood, who they wrote

their last love letters to. Every billboard I’ve seen

along the highway could not escape the pinch

of my forefinger and thumb. If I couldn’t have you

I would settle for half-drunk phone calls

cast over the ever-healing bruise

of midnight. Every town we’ve sped through

was ours in a past life. I spent entire lifetimes

trying and failing to hold you closer. Every night

I tried to stitch our bodies together

but only left them roadkill along the earthwork

of what had once been a horizon, something

worth a picture untaken. Remember that night

we didn’t dance in Kansas? We bled out just enough

language so that there was no word for love

or loneliness, just measure

and more pale measure beating

and beating

and beating. Remember

those midnight miles we didn’t open our eyes

through Virginia? We spun out in the fog

of our own lackluster, crossing country

and more akimbo country. We guessed

which way, just past the hilltop, our road

would break. Left or right, it never

really mattered. I shouldn’t have,

like all those tiny billboards,

tried to keep you. All the miles we have

before home

couldn’t wake us up. With only

our bodies we inked

onto real maps

unreal highways.

The insane history of how American paranoia ruined and censored comic books

By now the city has stamped across its retaining walls,

sidewalks, gutters, garages, and newsstands other names

for me: Captain Inferior, The Inhuman Eyesore,

though, who are you but me in a sleeker suit? You know

better than to call me sidekick. You know how quickly

the blood in my wounds coagulate post-cigarette, how alien

I look unmasked, how small uncaped. You are a square-jawed

saint, a gadget-packed utility belt, a low-jacked, rocket-launching,

net-shooting pony car. But, am I not your son? We saved

a child from a house fire I watched you set, captured

a criminal kingpin and in a railyard left out of headlines

murdered him with moon laser precision. The city

loves you. Why won’t you tell them you know so much

about my threadbare heart because it is bright and noxious

and so much like yours: its trashbag parka pericardium

and hollowed-out compartments that rush blood to every

apartment and penthouse in the city, for the city. What will

it feel like when my heart finally stops? Will it wake me at night

in its penultimate beat just before the room howls quiet

and you regret for the first time our exodus? Am I not

your son, your only son? What else can I be

but a signal in the sky?

10 things estate sales won’t tell you

When the phone rang I thought, this is it. One last

late night porch light smoke. One last dawn torn

open by sunrise. And again, when the car

pulled up. One last morning

news report. One last broken breakfast dish. One last

look into empty attic boxes. And again, when you spoke

through a knock on the door. One last

spilled drink. And again, and again, and again

when I answered with a glance

through the peephole. This is it. One last

memory lapse. One last lost voice. One last

spilled song

empty song

dawn song

odd song.

And finally, when you waited

in the doorway, perched

like a crow on a power line.

One last beginning.


Patrick Wilcox is from Independence, Missouri, a large suburb just outside Kansas City best known for the Oregon Trail, Harry S. Truman, and in more recent decades, production of methamphetamine. He studied English and Creative writing at the University of Central Missouri. He is a three-time recipient of the David Baker Award for Poetry and 2020 honorable mention of Ninth Letter’s Literary Award in Poetry. His work has appeared in Maudlin House, Knockout, Quarter After Eight, Bangalore, and MacGuffin. He currently teaches English Language Arts at William Chrisman High School.

Behind the Scenes

The titles of all three poems are ripped from national headlines. I wanted to explore the relationship news media has with our private lives.

In other words, I just wanted to explore the story inside of the story.

Once I stumbled on the headline for “Six killed in interstate chain pileup outside Flagstaff” I had this image of a couple on a road trip constantly churning in my mind. They see their relationship reflected in the violent and uncertain imagery they pass by on their journey across the country. Whether or not they are the cause of or victims in the pileup isn’t clear, but they are exhausted and stuck in a half-conscious state trying to stay awake. Most days I think they make it home safe.

“The insane history of how American paranoia ruined and censored comic books” was born out of my obsession with the lunacy of superheroes, particularly Superman. I wanted to write a poem that was an amalgamation of several hero tropes from the perspective of their sidekick, who is, in this case, looked down upon due to his failure to assimilate into society. Halfway through writing this poem, I realized the relationship between a sidekick and hero mirrored that of a child and parent which is when the poem found its direction.

Finally, “10 things estate sales won’t tell you” attempts to peek into the hidden history of a home. The speaker is about to be taken to assisted living and tries his best to hold onto his memories before his mind shakes them loose like leaves from a tree and he is stolen away by an undefined, ominous “you”. I’m not sure why that senile man popped into my head, but my heart breaks for him.


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