‘Tracks’ and other poems by Phillip Border
By: Phillip Border
Late in my adolescence
I once busted a beer bottle
over some skin head’s scalp
before his pals grappled me
to the ground and steel-toed my face
raw into the pool of his hot blood.
That’s when I began to believe
the terrors I had experienced thus
would one day come back
to define me. As if I’d might wake
like a bad dream
open my eyes and see
past the mirror’s glass gate
back where I followed the tracks
to the first buck I had killed;
its broken body reflected
from the pond’s shallow edge.
And through the glaze of its eyes
I slowly realized how each passing
pain would build themselves into
my frame of man.
And that was enough, then,
how each ache holds
the gravity of this world;
accumulating in stride.
Gradually, miles turned
into years, and each time I looked back
I noticed my tracks continued to seep
deep into the earth; each step
becoming more distinguished
than the last to the point
I could tell them apart
from any man’s: how every
passing print measured equally
to the next, each creating a pattern
entirely their own.
in the morning
and it is all
and the sleight
of a sleepless
from the loins.
And it is
and all the dark
as I lie
pawing the bed-
side of me
void of you,
Because you pumped your lungs
full of smoke and made a living
off your greenhouse’s kindling, she left
all feminist swagger-the only way
to move forward is apart. Still
you poured the past out
like sour milk–those years you paid
the bills, the businesses you built
and walked away from to be
with her, the grad school she got into
with your writing skills–knowing she wouldn’t
take a lick, you ended
mopping it all up with tear-
snotty tissues tossed back
into wastebasket beside your bed.
Now you sleep in your parents’ basement,
and all your old knives have been hidden.
Only plastic ware in their kitchen.
You think of dishes, her favorite,
roasted veggies, made by you,
that evening back from drinks
in Berkeley, toasting to her acceptance
letter, and how shocked you were
shredding carrots, when the peeler’s blade
suddenly slipped and dipped nail deep
into your forefinger–the way
you held it out to her–wondering
how so much blood could be spilled
There are too many thoughts
I wish to tell you. Too
many ties, snapped
& retied, enduring
by the knots.
When there were words to say
between us, we said them.
When there was silence
around us, we stilled
to the rhythm. This is how
I remember you
behind the deer blinds—you
pulling the trigger
before I could say
I want you to know
the line I have always walked
between us is not here
to snap back against you
or to become another kink. No,
what I want to say
in one line without any knots
is if you can keep on pulling—I can let go.