Poetry by Connor Shields

4 Buttons

They might even move worlds:
jump and scale bodega walls and
sling footballs 80 yards; these buttons
they sink under our fingers in their own
language, signals manifesting us—
more and less than us:
a simulacrum of our achievement

where a slight pull on Archimedes’ lever draws
ambitions and dreams with blurry digital bodies
offering stolen glory: of Odysseus, of Superman—to
turn a fire-breathing turtle upside down—

yet felt and acted nowhere but in
pale, bloodless fingers.

 

Volatile

When night drivers crawl along
roads with rising mists,
Headlights draw curved prosceniums
in the dark fog, in which, maybe once,
a stray dog briefly takes center-stage.
He falters timid on shaky legs,
this self-derisive frailty a danse-macabre
across their searching glow, and disappears.
But the dog’s image in this imageless fog
can’t be shunted out, just his mangy
auburn mane blotched endlessely
into this plume of gray sand.
yet they’ll leave him behind: one moment his
cracking paws, his dampening fur,
the next his skin pinched in the grates
of one brusque Tacoma – canines gnashed –

Their car highlights a lot eventually, tires
edged neatly against the yellow line;
the dog behind, somewhere

 

The Serpent

Drawn at a thousand stabs a minute,
ink that bled black into his skin

now stands swollen and red,
a raised cross on the mountain of his shoulder.

Skin that aches, skin he wants to scratch,
skin he will peel off in waxy clumps

like dried-up snake scales, then roll
between his smooth fingers,

fragments of his shattered self,
swirling down the drain.

“What is that?” They’ll ask when they see it,
peeking from under its bandage

so easily drawn, his identity quick fix,
and he’ll tell about its meaning,

how he thinks it’s him,
even how it shows he’s born again, but not

how the serpent molts with slough-covered eyes,
or how much Vaseline can soothe its bite.


Connor Shields is a recent graduate from Western Oregon University with a Bachelor’s degree in English literature. He lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where he studies literature, writes poetry, and plays piano. This is his first publication in a literary magazine.

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