Rob Arnold: Never There to Begin With
WHAT YOU WERE TOLD
That he used his fingers his
fists his teeth that he threw you
into the wall put cigarettes
out on your back the smooth
white disks still visible
that he bit you open
pinched your legs
and ass until the lumps
formed that he held you hostage
ransomed you for sex
that he kept your mother
captive stole her savings
so she could not run
that he was out of prison
by now nobody knows where
that you were a year old and he was
a Navy man his name was Ricky
Joseph he was your sister’s father
that your own father wasn’t
there to help because he was
never there to begin with
There was ambivalence in the snowfall.
We had watched the shapes of deer slip eerily
into the gap of the woods, all haunch and headlight
and the negative space where eyes would go,
crows clotting in trees, or misting over the thruway
like effluvia from our dreams.
The sky in the west had opened its throat.
The shadows lengthened with no words.
Later, we’d pull off our skins
and lie sleepless till daybreak,
emptied, undignified, drawn
into the strangeness of the other’s heat.
But for the moment we stayed,
looking out into the almost motionless blue
while the neighborhood shimmered,
so it seemed, between us.
Then there was the black hound baying,
then the closing of the mouth.
The regret and the consequence,
the hot breath on our thighs.
Rob Arnold's poems have appeared in PLOUGHSHARES, HYPHEN, NATURAL BRIDGE, and elsewhere. Many years ago, he cofounded the journal MEMORIOUS, where his interviews with Robert Creeley, Bill Knott, and others appeared. He is also the former managing editor of FENCE / Fence Books. Currently, he reads for the National Poetry Series and serves as coeditor of Grid Books.