Tony Tost

Four poems

Three from Invisible Bride

We’re always shoulder to shoulder: you over there, me in here, singing, holding an apple and a knife and you’re staring at your wrists: I’m mock-serious (with my knife, knife, knife) and full of ordinary secrets, and you’re over there, next to me, with your thousand and one shadows as I, up here (under you) trace the shadows with this knife that you kept, for luck, in your room.

I found it.

Some folks are unable to talk on the phone in a noisy office or airport while others can make a call from anywhere. Some folks break the phone because they are afraid it will ring. My brother feared the ferry-boat that took us to our summer vacation home; when the horn blew he would throw himself on an imaginary sword. During my lifetime, I've mve made at least 200,000 observations. For example, often clouds just disappear.

When women think about abstract concepts like love or death, they use visual images, such as a sliding glass door. For example, a romance must be approached gently for barging forward too quickly may shatter the door. Some women enjoy watching automatic sliding doors for they receive the same feelings of pleasure that occur when they engage in kissing or other, typically romantic, behaviors. My father told me how he gently encourage my mother to tolerate more and more kissing; one evening she was held in a light kiss until her weeping lessened, then she was released.

He sent me a video describing the squeeze machine he's developing to satisfy his craving for the feeling of being held. “You know,” he says, “not everything has to be touched.”

Some trains go over three hundred miles per hour without ever touching the tracks. Some people insist on wearing pants for they dislike the feeling of their legs touching. Those who cannot tolerate talking can be desensitized through a gentle rubbing about the mouth.

It’s like waking up and kissing a mirror good morning. The challenge is finding a reason. One approach is holding onto the ball, staying in bounds, waiting for the clock to run out. There are lots of reasons strutting around, flapping their wings, but they are often stupid reasons. Entire towns sell their souls for any number of reasons; people die for one, maybe two reasons. I had a pet chicken. Echo. He was my favorite chicken. Had him when I was a child (first chicken best chicken). Tonight the night is a black moth. A spoon grazing my lips. Tonight the night is a black mouth. They killed my favorite chicken. Tonight the night is a black month or a red month. It's December. A man passes a door three or four times before he realizes it’s the way out.

One from Dead Birds

Sister brought back the mountain's shadow. I saw it. It killed the birds. Every morning has its moment of pale horror. Sister came down at dawn, saw a dead swan on the porch, kicked it in the mouth. Soon snow on that lyrical sculpture. Brother’s small weeping, my repose. A heron does not touch the fish of nearby waters for it always travels a great distance for its food.

Good morning, Sister.

Tony Tost's Invisible Bride was recently selected by C. D. Wright as the winner of the 2003 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets. We're pleased to be able to present three poems from Invisible Bride, two of which were previously published in storySouth, and one new poem from a project Tost calls "Dead Birds."

Invisible Bride will be published by LSU Press in 2004. In the meantime, you may enjoy more of Tost's poems elsewhere on the web:

Tony Tost is completing his MFA at the University of Arkansas. His work has appeared in the pages of Fence and Spinning Jenny. Tost also co-edits Octopus, to be launched in August.