Jarid McCarthy


Day of Venus, afterall. I make a half-shell of myself,
fill it with this frail dread of light. Small windowed room.

First, my loneliness like a child in the canyon. I watch dusk
flatten his hair with a licked hand, my shape going loose

in the violet gesture: houred out of the image, out of balance.
The boy of me is eaten away by mosquitoes in the dew.

Second, the weight of apocalypse he holds as buzzing wires.
Death of the rabbit. Death of the coyote. Dawn burning

against the electric sentence. Or evening, after driving, arriving
in the black lot of home, pointing skyward at the thinnest of lines

unknown as glamour and held up by nothing. Oh, saying,
Something alien or insane, Something magic only for us,

as if the powerplant didn’t hunger just beyond the dark field.
But listen: Third, my mother saw the line, too, thought it

constellation like I. Both sets of our eyes unseeing in the night
the structure that looms seamless in it. Night that holds, afterall.

Or binds. Razes slowly along the throat of Earth,
horizon tender with bruised longing, elapsing.

Fourth, elapsing. Notch by notch slipping free of the spectacle,
hands breath-tight behind my back, the last tendrils of my hair

passing through rod iron the sound of swept August.
What new shape I make, unfolding from the bend. Cut blue

from the illusion that fills, hangs between us as dust.
Distance blades, unseen from here and anywhere. Dull or not.


No boys dressed in wolf skins.      No wild sage to perfume
the scent of semen, no briar stuck in denim.      No yellow field

on military property swaying in heat for sparrows and rabbits
to hide––      If they had teeth like mine they could make themselves

something like safe; if they could move their eyes a few inches closer
the whole visible world would be pierced to the backs of their skulls.

What is this story of the prey-things becoming what prey?

No lifeguard tower.      No biting a man’s lips until he bleeds,
even when he says my virtue is a godling curled inside a shell.

The sound of an ocean against my ear is nothing but virtue. 

No blonde body hair.      No peach fuzz or peach.      I am afraid
to show another man my body unless I know his body will crush mine.

I had a dream: black suit made of fur, Jupiter’s pelt, his sash of ice
and dead stars, whispers between sips of ale.      I am afraid of the sun

until it watches me undress.      The air, until it enters me.      I am afraid
of what I can see until I close my eyes, lay back, let the images sway.

Which root is it that rots at the pulse?     Whatever I am after the dark.

No swallowed fist, no urge to flinch at denial, the beckoning mouth
somewhere inside.      What I’d leave this place with, alone.

Jarid McCarthy is a poet and playwright residing in the Southern California landscape. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Foglifter, Surfaces, Night Music, Old Youth, and elsewhere. He is the creator of Empty Room, an experimental audio-only theater project. You can find him wandering out somewhere in the ether.