Jacob Boyd

Two poems from Jacob Boyd’s Tattoo & Binnacle

followed by a note on the author

To a Boy I Haven’t Seen Since We Were Five

I lived on Gardenia. You lived on Miller.
My bedroom window
aimed at your backyard. Your smeared face
I can almost recall
shadowed by sour apple trees, an arrow in your hand.

Walnuts, crabapples, and rocks.
How well these fit our palms and flew. Crabapple
from the Gaelic
scrab. Walnuts from branches. Rub the green rinds
and stain with musk.

At dawn, we drain the fryers, pour wheeled buckets
of grease onto grease—
stank layers congealing in steel bins, and still the scent
of rhubarb or garlic
clings to our fingers. We shred lettuce, stock straws,
and even enjoy our chores,
all the while picturing a kitchen window, a child at dinner
on one side, his friend,
impatient, on the other. The clock like a mother.

In the old language—
Scottish Gaelic—letters were named for native trees.
Every word became
a forest: canopy, leaf litter, cradle for fire.
Take manzanita,
Latin America’s little apple, a shrub
with taffy smooth
caramel colored bark, leaves like elliptical sandpaper,
branches that bend shadows
on the Mogollan Rim in the Mazatzal mountains.
Imagine a letter
rooted in that tree, how rain would shape it,
how well you could use it
if you lived in those hills, how each season you’d speak
in varying shades of certainty.

We work alone in the silver light of walk-in freezers,
soft, brown cardboard shells
furred with ice tower before us. Our cold faces,
russet and trout white,
lift as a blushed sky widens over Kalamazoo. In Kazakhstan,
the motherland
of wild apples, old orchards are grief hostels
in a sea of spent oil.

I always think of you as native, and me as passing
through. It feels good

to say your name: Timothy Anders.
A loosened Atlantis,
unmoored, decaying slower than frozen rail ties,
but faster
than plastic. I want our words back. I confuse our youth
with the World’s.



Trying to Remember a Hermit Thrush

Not wren, not warble, nor woman, nor ghost,
Not a foul smell in the frog of a horse’s foot,

But three or four notes
Unspooling at once from one throat,

A flute in the undergrowth, lucid
As two statues of jackrabbits

Never were and never will be. Trying
Not to remember the bird itself,

But the song the surrounding pines
Fostered: not just the song and the pines

but my first yard: there was a screen
I pressed my face against, a scent

of wire mesh, sunlight, and then
every longing that followed.



Jacob Boyd’s work has appeared or is forthcoming from American Journal of Poetry, Bellevue Literary Review, Copper Nickel, Diode, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Stilt House, was selected by Heather McHugh as winner of the Emrys Press Award. He is an artist in residence at Northwestern University.

To a Boy I Haven’t Seen Since We Were Five appeared in North American Review; Trying to Remember a Hermit Thrush appeared in Hawk & Handsaw.