"The victim dreams of you in his doorway" - Zach Mitcham

"The victim dreams of you in his doorway" - Zach Mitcham


You stole from the man's old home place,

repeatedly, like water eroding land's soft tissue,

copper wiring pulled from walls, the trail

of the refrigerator in the dirt, like a big animal

dragging itself to the woods to die. You hauled

his dead old Chevy to have it crushed for scrap metal,

the wind knocked out of the cab, where the faces

of his first son and his best dog lived passenger-side

in the oily dust air.

So he waited for you.

His wife urged him not to, but he took a blanket

and pillow and put the pistol on a night table by the sofa,

where he slept and spread pimento cheese on wheat bread

with a butter knife, picnics of solitude ending

with a bullwhip lifted, put back down, lifted again,

country quiet, cicadas, rain's fingers on the tin roof,

religion of the long surprise, little routines

like a cross gesture over the chest, life or death.

He rose and washed, kept his hair combed,

breath fresh, wrinkles steamed away, measured his heart rate

and made a game of ever lower against the wait,

felt it was not about property, but everything else,

became better because of you, a wall to lean against.

His fence gate made no clank.

But lost meat buzzed in your empty bone,

which was a pipe scraped of marrow, your teeth sucked

loose in the gum, stored poisons tasted in the gaps.

You were the fog over wet grass but angular as a cave painting,

points tumbling over themselves toward a poking.

And when your fingers rode up the door chain,

you could hear him asleep. His presence was the gift, like darkness itself

chuckling with you, lips licked on an upturn. Not property anymore.

Not that kind of drug, some other pilot light at your brain stem,

your gasses put to flame.

But you didn't hear the bee. It's little wings

moved too fast for a swat. And when his hands came clear through the dark,

you also drew, both of you in the doorway at sunrise, or perhaps it was sunset.

You just saw the light baking behind trees as your trigger finger twitched

long past use, a mouth severed from its body, still biting.
Photo: "Ball," Ben Gulyas

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