Patrick Rosal

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Patrick Rosal reads "Tito's Field" and "When You Haven't Made Love in a Long Time." He's the author of Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive (Persea Books). His chapbook Uncommon Denominators won the Palanquin Poetry Series Award, and he currently at work on his second full-length collection My American Kundiman. He is Assistant Professor of English at Bloomfield College.

Music: Chicago Underground Duo (Chad Taylor and Rob Mazurek) - "Lifelines" - from the album Axis and Alignment from Thrill Jockey

Tito's Field

We shot my tito's guns in a field
somewhere in the middle of Louisiana
This man - my uncle - was a genius
By day they paid him to figure out a way -
when there was none -to suture kidneys shut
- and he did Then he'd come home
to put his son's kings in check
He swatted at the swift flies
everyone else was too stupid to see
and rambled about hearing new
prophecies in his Walkman
Because the seven horsemen
and their fairy counterparts
were quick to trample out my tito's last few
lingering flintsparks of logic
my auntie in the end stormed
out of their house with their sons
the same way reason must have
stormed out of his brain
But everyone and everything that summer
kept their tenuous residence long enough
for me to play with small artillery
in the seemingly endless backyard
that belonged to my raving uncle
Tito June explained the mechanics of each weapon
and even knew the physics of every echoed blam!
He pointed out our targets
like a pre-school teacher points out
the alphabet: one oak broken like an old hip
a stack of flat stones near the edge of the yard
motley and muddied bottles lined
along the wooden fence My aim was terrible
I was just a Jersey kid drunk
on the triple-jump twenty-gauge
cuss and rumble of a shotgun
thrumming its way out of this
seventeen-acre field in a hurry
When he told me to knock a single fat grackle off
the lowest branch of a bare catalpa about
forty feet from where we stood
I surprised myself when I saw the body
drop to the dirt still fluttering
Tito June pulled a .22 off his hip
walked up to the final full
twitch that remained of the bird
and sent a slug through its tiny gut
(I stopped the yuck in my throat )
When he picked it up and held it by one
toe dangling it like an iridescent planet
we knew he'd pack that one away
with all the other critters in his freezer
He peered long at that scavenger
as though he could see clear
through its belly to a hole in heaven's skull

I should thank you Tito
I didn't care you stopped believing in God
As long as I've known you you've stood
on the edge of madness like a child
clad in clean white knickers
held back from diving into the mud
But no one after all could stop you
You cackled loud when you pulled a trigger
You cackled loud when you didn't
For all your quirky brilliance
For all your ravishing lunacy
For all your universe-be-damned bravado
I don't envy you your dreams: the gun -
blast echoes rippling through the field
of your mind: littered tangled overgrown
where you stand gaping
about to pronounce some twisted
epistle or botched psalm from
a world in which - for as long as you live -
there is no such thing as lies and chaos
is the last science you shall ever love

When You Haven't Made Love in a Long Time

Whatever first summons back her mouth
to yours - gin or lies or the massive electric
wreck of a dying man's heart Whatever rouse
your chest's cadence to its own hectic

footstomp charge Whatever villain
or halo or headlock you mimic
or thoracic harbor your passions thrill in
Whatever ash and lye Whatever fragrant muck

let your tongue be neither simple nor mad-dash
without knowing first the ramshackle
angles of angels rising Do not rush
point A to B Travel the gentle curve of sickle

Climb her thigh's solfeggio Hush along her hips like
some cool crooning devil eager to lose his wits