Poetry Suite by Jacob Rakovan

Editor Carrie Ivy, Poetry, September 30th, 2013

Your pretty dress a hammer knocking against the eyes of God...

jacob rakovan poem nailed magazine

She Opened Her Mouth

The river came out, whiskey and catfish, fog and brown water.
A barrel-house woman sang knives and razors and done-me-wrong.
She carried her like a secret everybody knows
’till she could wail, bright eyed
’till the music fell back and went away
’till the angels pulled their turkey-buzzard wings over their eyes
’till the clocks hung their mouths open.
A long sweet lonesome note that crawled into your guts.

Singing: blood river, heart, sun behind fog
the bone hills, the morning, rock and antler
Song tearing you down and stitching you, rag and quilt.
A name you had forgotten.
A hymn in a graveyard of teeth.
Hillbilly praise, crooked as a coal vein.

You always knew, plain and homespun
simple as morning, Jesus knocking on the door
of her throat, whiskey river coal barge
simple as truth, birds against the sun.
A gun in a hall closet.
Deer in the corn.

+ + +

Ingrid Elizabeth Deardoff

Your pretty dress a hammer knocking against the eyes of God.
The sky is a stone. The tiny ants go about their blind business.
We have sown you, seed in the black soil of home.
Concrete angels feign weeping,
deathless and mute, they cannot curse.

Plastic flowers bloom and bleach in the sun.
The shining cars swarm on the black road.
Your name is stitched into our tongues
a synonym for grief,
should be a bird, a song, not coal or fire.

You cannot laugh.
We have washed your long-legged body,
the song of the saints goes on. How do they praise him for this?

O grinning death, you sonofabitch.
In the hills, in summer
tiny lights flit in the tall grass,
small stars under the trees.

+ + +

Disappearing Trick

When you are curved into yourself
a Moebius strip wrapped around
the missing-tooth ache of your heart
I am a fat drunk horsefly
clumsy legs skittering over
the smooth surface of your inside-out skin
the backs of your eyes.

You are gone. A little girl pulled down the drain
with the bathwater, the ducks and boats, the soap
and sun and stars drawn down the spiral
of water into the ringing pipes.

I am that ring of shaving scum
that never goes down.
Something small and venomous
climbing out of the drain.

+ + +


One careless word from the father, that bristling bear
and the boys are all turned into blackbirds.
The daughter given in marriage to
the monster that saved you in the woods.
The baby bartered to godfather death.

If your mother buries your bones in the backyard
you will come and sing, and drop a grinding stone around her neck.
If I lose you in the woods you will breadcrumb home with blood on your hands.
If you meet with a poison apple or a spindle or lose your shoes, or fall asleep
or dance with dead boys till your clothes are rags or any one of a million misfortunes
someone will come and kiss your body back from blue sleep.

Parents dance at weddings in iron shoes
roll down hills in barrels full of nails
their bellies stitched shut full of stones
those wolves and grandmothers and giants.

Happy kings lose their daughters to wandering boys
with pockets filled with beans and flutes
with talking cats and singing swords
and all manner of unlikely gimcrackery.

Every task and test and riddle I’d set
even scratching out his eyes, setting him wandering in the desert
even locking him in the tower with the dead men
even sending him to hell itself to sell his salt

cheated with fairies and the devil’s mother and
whatever it takes, to steal the child away
to the hollow hill, to the hidden lake
to the other side of the mountain of glass.

Swans and crows and goose-feathered brothers
the dutiful daughter, the dimwitted son, the tailor
all fly over the hills and far away

+ + +

Catherine O’Leary’s Cow

leaves the lamp unkicked and bottles three days in October.
The streets of the city never change, there is no second star.
Wooden boardwalks line the lake, a town with smaller shoulders.
The slaughterhouses and criminals lack a grandeur, the knot of railroads untied.
On a gravel street that divides two counties
the crumbling house I dream is never built.

Unbuild it now- strip siding down to mirror
reflection of insulation, wood framing.
Nails crawl to ore, to slag.
Cement-block foundations dissolve to dust
lumber unburns, planks inchworm and root.

There is no hollow woodgrain door to stand before, with flashlight in hand.
There is no regret, no Bluebeard refrain in my head
of every door save this one
behind which all my terror and my sorrow flow.
No imagined woodsman’s axe to swing
and split his hairy belly throat to crotch
release the clot of ghosts I’ve stuffed this scarecrow with.

My sisters do not stop here, or wear their ages like borrowed clothes
and I, when we meet, have no wager against your sorrow, cannot understand
your tattooed tear, your graveyard arms.
Can never match your hunger, or know the way a city is rebuilt from ruin
so we part strangers in a smaller country.

Let time come as it must.
Let Pegleg Sullivan steal the milk.
Let the world end, if it ends in you.

+ + +

poet jacob rakovan nailed magazineJacob Rakovan is an Appalachian writer in diaspora. He is a 2011 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Poetry and recipient of a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Rakovan was a finalist for the 2012 Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature and the Gell poetry prize, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Dzanc book’s Best of the Web. He is co-curator of the Poetry & Pie Night reading series in upstate New York, where he resides with his five children and a mermaid. His book of poems, The Devil’s Radio is forthcoming in Fall 2013 from Small Doggies Press.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.