Steubenville, by David James Brock

“Steubenville” appeared in the 2014 Hart House Review.  David James Brock was that issue’s featured poet.

The farmland is sacred, and water tower towns are obsessed
with the exploits of their children. The cities are useless, anyway,
even if they could light gasoline on the wheat fields. In these parts,
the horse is blamed for her broken leg—I almost celebrated the jockey
who said, Shoot me, too. I was riding her. He locked on her eye as the tear bulged,
and he lied. She trusted him. How quickly he stopped being a hero.

The wild gives us no cues. We obsess over lions that only take and fuck
and are called kings. The rivers grind the cliffs to powder; there is only
decomp at a carcass. I want to say tornadoes will not kill the barns, disease
will spare the families, but lust and wrath are simple livin’. The monster’s
a wicked party. We’re wasted. The bored will make themselves a nation
in need of a militia. Hibernate. Stockpile. Each of us is terrifying.

Those in the swamps and prairies prepare for something infinite. Someone
has a picture of God, and it reminds the kids of a snake tricking a woman
in a garden. I looked to men on the sidewalk outside bars who viewed themselves
as ex-heroes, hurting for bodies they once had. They harass the bank teller
and are blind to the baby when flirting with the mother. I too could laugh
the front teeth from my mouth and scream. But they are soft, fellas.

They cry for the moose in the bush infected with brain worm, knowing
the same parasite is benign in the white-tail. Leave her alone. It’s that sick cow
they pity when they see themselves as big and crippled from the top down.
They dream of mercy from small things that cannot be punched or kicked
or shamed or burned. They are blue when the bull’s roster grows, and having
long forgotten prayer, they wish safety for new targets. No one wants a fight.

But no one knows who to blame for the losses. So we plead with ice cracking
beneath our feet and bargain with the virus. We cannot know when someone
silently prays among us, or who believes in the thing that is listening. We cannot
see the lion until it swings, and so we run and take our chances. The town cheers
when we run this fast. Victory parades without smiles are funeral procession.
The heart will pop from the speed of our flight. Eulogize this: at least we ran.


An internationally acclaimed playwright and librettist, the poetry of David James Brock’s recently published collection, Everyone is CO2 (Wolsak and Wynn, 2014), fuses musical prose with the thoughts, feelings, and observations of an uncommonly astute observer. His work is demonstrative and thought-provoking, posing questions and offering images that leave readers as hungry with curiosity as they are rapt with fascination.

Everyone is CO2 is available for purchase here.