Me, Being Rude

A woman knocks, asks
what I think the purpose
of life is.

Possible answers:

1) No. No, thank you.

2) The purpose of life is
to not be asked such questions.

3) There is
no purpose. Life just is.

If the rose-petal goddess
likes me, that’s a good thing.
Maybe the rose-petal goddess
likes me. Maybe
she hands me a half dozen
musicians seated in a rose.

But this is the porch where I,
at night, can sit in my chair
in the dark, listen to the tiny
frogs sing, the glowing pale green crystals,
and think about

The woman stares
from the cover:
The Faces of Leona.
She is a charmstone;
her soul is her image;
her eyes are brown as this
is not September. Inside
are images of
her life which happen
as I write: Leona
at a lunch counter ordering
a club sandwich and a
paper cup of seltzer water;
Leona, happy the war is over,
kissing a sailor; Leona
standing in a soup line with
her only daughter; Leona
surprised, holding bed sheets
over her cleavage. It is
Chinese New Year, the year
of the pig;
she is drinking tea and
reading a fortune. It is
like all fortunes: vague,
sourly encouraging. On
the calendar behind her are
red tassels threaded through
coins of copper, coins with
square holes.
It is unclear whether she
is seated with someone or
not. The years run in
reverse; she grows
younger. With a turn
of a page she is in the
white lace of her communion
dress– the priest holds a piece
of the moon
against her tongue.


Mechanical People

Grain elevators, storage bins
cone-top castles,
mechanical people who

stay up late, listen to
yesterday’s futures, file
their teeth on

grindstones, shout
yee-haw! I acknowledge
they exist. I acknowledge

their lives are boring.

Night of another reading,
may the spirits be friendly,
and Madam Painpleroy’s
perfume not strangle the
mist who speaks to
our fingertips touching around
the table and the lemon
light of candles in a ring.
May the night be quivering
with gossamer
and faint shadows; may
the throat be lily and amber.
Come to us now, liberations of
stone and soil, press your
names into the vibrations
of the night. We are
with you.

The man is a nibbling weasel.
I’m sorry, but that’s the long and
short of it, and I am un-
friendly and friendless. The
creatures of the way are my
only companions now, mice
who wriggle into my coat
pocket looking for chocolate,
the menacing tobacco monster
who spiders across the marble
in an ever-growing spectacle
of crumbs and matter until
it grows the legs of a crab
and the sea grows dark.
The stamp of judgment upon
your forehead, rest to the
seaweed like a goddess
hatched from her clamshell

Check the record. It is the
date of 300 Columbia of
the ignited. A pleasant
enough evening if not for
the humidity. They will
ask, did he give this gift
to you? Say, he did. He
was my father. All soiled
flawed souls become fathers
at least once. They will
probably gasp– a small wave
followed by hundreds that
grow in intensity until
every fornication upon the
beach of naturalness is
extinguished and the world
goes purely dead. Drop
the infant into the sea.
No dignity. No dignity for these.



My name is M like Mud, like Middle
of Monday, like I Mull over a
few ideas. I don’t like this
city and how the merchants
maul you. Even at the
clinics, especially there, your
life is a big if,
important as paper and some zeros.
Let me say that again; your
life is as important as a slip
of paper and a few
zeros. When they promise
rain: nothing. The sun
hammers anger out of the pavement;
the sounds of tortured chains
and echos. If you will the manna
tree to grow, it is the
wrong climate. Who wouldn’t
wish for a branch of
alligator pears greeting
the window? Sounds are
important — the way
rain touches every part
of you. You close your eyes
and you can see
droplets bombing the dust
leaving small craters.



I whisper shells and I still
wonder where I am– hello
is this Sunday?, am I
the print of leaves, am I
a shadow? We were taught
peculiar ways, how never
to utter “an” when saying
the word “history” and playing
with bugs and making summer
our form of currency. A
canvas would be thrown over
the swing set and we would
say sloppy and cook
hamburgers on heated coffee cans
and pay a tomato to each for a
chance on the tornado warning
that would let us sleep
flash to the garage and
the latrine we dug for our
personal mantra. Late as
we could with the Coleman
glowing and the transistor
set on KIOA. Everyone
had a canteen. Not
everyone drank the same
thing. Strange. No matter
how many times you said
it, they’d say “What’s
that boy’s name?” as if
you weren’t a sunflower
knocking its head against
the word shed’s window, as
if your were the hammer
bust or the nail bust or
the cross struts of a
Batman kite. As if you
couldn’t keep yourself in
your body long enough for
it to storm. Properly.

“This is your baby, Mr. John
Q. Public,” the sign read.
It was in the gymnasium where
they ordered all of us, boys
and girls, to remove our
clothes and pile them on
the big angry badger out
center court. I can barely
remember this. They eventually
soaked our clothes in gasoline
and burned them. Consequently,
our school also
burned to the ground.
We were taken to the soccer
field, in our undies,
and ordered to do 100 jumping jacks.
After we were all doubled
over, sweating and heaving,
they ordered us all to disperse
to the woods and the
cornfields; they fired
pistols above their heads
and chased us in all
directions from the school
yard. This is what they
called, “clearing the
nest.” The night was
cold where many of us had
gathered, and wild dogs
chased and snarled at us,
backing many of us up into
the trees. Many of us stayed
in the trees and died
there. Many of us
lived. That is how we became
the creatures of the trees.
On nights like this, you can hear
our cries.



This is the month of Knockvember.
Being such, we must remember
our Knockvember holidays:
the quenching of the orchards
and the healing of the steel.
Might I take a walk with you
during the healing of the steel?
The rivers run backwards that night,



About the poet:

Rustin Larson’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review, Poetry East, Saranac Review and other magazines. The Wine-Dark House (Blue Light Press, 2009) is his latest collection. Crazy Star, his previous, was selected for the Loess Hills Book’s Poetry Series in 2005. Larson won 1st Editor’s Prize from Rhino magazine in 2000 and has won prizes for his poetry from The National Poet Hunt and The Chester H. Jones Foundation, among others. A seven-time Pushcart nominee, and graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing, Larson was an Iowa Poet at The Des Moines National Poetry Festival in 2002 & 2004, a featured writer in the DMACC Celebration of the Literary Arts in 2007 & 2008, and he was a featured poet at the Poetry at Round Top Festival in May 2012.