Portrait of the Poet’s Anxiety in Four Horsemen – Brennan Bestwick


Arturo Souto – 1937



I light a candle and watch shoppers
enter the mall outside my bedroom.
Through the glass we share my sadness.
This boy fears the crosswalk, holding
his sister’s hand in his own. His mother
fears what man can become when boys
lose the last of their first teeth. Who isn’t
afraid? All of us together, their available
world and my invisible haunts. I give each
stranger a name that sounds like my own.
We are a season of moths, a mouth of petals.


In the parking lot behind my apartment,
I practice squaring my car evenly between
the lines. My skill for this simple pleasure
is worsening. Yesterday I ran a red light.
My partner worries when I am left alone.
She slides through the narrow opening
of the passenger door parked too near
an Oldsmobile and her faith thins enough
to free her. I kill the engine in a thousand
new stalls, audition my shame for surrender.
No lot escapes the slaughter. All forgotten
can be lost. This is a treaty, the concession.



My body is brimstone and swimmer.
Say,eosinophilic gastroenteritis.
Hear my grandmother say she is ready
to die as her husband sleeps in a hospital
bed between us. Taste the sour sea sifting
through the lining of my stomach. See
my father cough his curling chest in a fit
of tremors after supper, seated at the table.
I worry this fear is too much to swallow
in a single sitting. I worry I cannot know
what it means to be ready to die. Famine
is sacred. I know this to be true. Hunger
cannot leave a body always needing more.



The prairie grows only after flame stains
the grassland black. This Earth smolders
and dies, it is born again in a puddle of ash.
I try knowing my body as a controlled burn.
In every scene it remains only this, scattered
across the hills, ash, between earth and rebirth.
I question my expiration in all my iterations,
let my worry shape my departure. I persist,
whether smoke or watershed. There is nothing
I cannot become. I have believed it all.



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