Winter 2016 - Poetry

Poetry

Brian D. Morrison

 

A History of the Forklift

It isn’t a quiet story, the forklift’s, but it carries
intermittent calm, idle between shifts at the factory,
not revving or pivoting. Until the driver, who

knows the sounds sparks make in gas-powered
engines, like the sounds driven through the necks
of rifles before the louder bangs, ignites it.

He knows the faces on bodies of children found
clutching one another in the wreckage after
he was ordered to throw a grenade into the “clear”

building that wasn’t. The night shift just beginning,
the forklift’s arms raise skids of paint drums, as if
propelled by thought innate in its motor

brain. The driver knows the tremble in another
soldier’s hands lifting the two children, who’d been
huddled in a closet, hiding from the war, from him,

from all of them. He knows the sun is a high
heat, his desert grays that baked him under it,
and when the forklift lowers the paint to the floor,

the driver knows he can’t set things down so easily.
Across the factory floor, chatter erupts, small talk,
and then a clang. And another. And the talk

escalates. There is yelling, there are bodies littering
the factory breathing, all of them vulnerable.
And so when the paint drums fall because the skid’s

damage was unseen, the sound clears the factory
of its forklift driver, and in his place stands the soldier
who isn’t but always has to be, despite, because

bodies collect in the mind, the smoke stains.
Memories are weighted with trauma of living past them.
The driver sees the children’s faces in every smear

of spilled paint, their shimmer vibrant, dimmer,
then vivid again. He shifts into park, the war ongoing
and not, as the spill pools fulgent underneath.

 

*

 

A History of Pigs

There might be sun on the farmland,
or maybe not. Or this story
might not exist Or there’s mud
hardening in the pen that isn’t mud
or it’s another mud. Or the pig
itself is the mud, which it isn’t
because it need only be pig. But the pig
in the mud of the pen is gone.
And there was once a farmer inside
an adjacent house in a suit getting ready
for work after washing the pig food or mud
or the pen itself off himself.
The pig, the mud, the pen, the same
as the farmer adjusting his tie, if there is
a farmer, his farm caught in his collar,
his pockets full of pig. Or there never was
a farm. Or the farmer had to leave
in the suit he covered in farm,
and maybe that’s that; that’s the way
things go, and there’s no need
to ever speak a word otherwise, the end.

 

 

 

 

~

Brian D. Morrison completed his MFA at the University of Alabama, where he was an assistant editor at Black Warrior Review. His poetry has appeared at West Branch, The Bitter Oleander, Verse Daily, Copper Nickel, Cave Wall, and other journals. Currently, he works as an Assistant Professor of English at Ball State University.

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.