The Cortland Review

Dorianne Laux
"Dog Poets" by Dorianne Laux.

Dorianne Laux
Five poems by Dorianne Laux.

This marks an author's first online publication Carl Adamshick
This marks an author's first online publication William Archila
Wes Benson
Roy Bentley
Michelle Bitting
Kim Bridgford
Stacey Lynn Brown
Grant Clauser
Michael Dickman
This marks an author's first online publication Matthew Dickman
This marks an author's first online publication Geri Digiorno
Cheryl Dumesnil
Molly Fisk
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Kate Lynn Hibbard
Major Jackson
Greg Kosmicki
Keetje Kuipers
Michael McGriff
This marks an author's first online publication Philip Memmer
This marks an author's first online publication Jude Nutter
John Repp
R. T. Smith
This marks an author's first online publication Brian Turner
Book Review
"Sister" by Nickole Brown—Book Review, by John Hoppenthaler.

Book Review
"Superman: The Chapbook" by Dorianne Laux—Book Review, by David Rigsbee.

Michael McGriff

Michael McGriff was born and raised in Coos Bay, Oregon. He is the author of Dismantling the Hills (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008). A recent recipient of an NEA grant, his work has mostly recently appeared in Slate, Indiana Review, and The Believer.

Year of the Rat    

I winch-up the sky
    between the shed roof and the ridge
and stand dumb as a goat
    beneath its arrows and buckets,
its harmonies and hungers.
    Each night I feel a speck of fire
twisting in my gut,
    and each night
I ask the Lord
    the same questions
and by morning the same
    spools of barbed wire
hang on the barn wall
    above footlockers of dynamite.
We used to own everything
    between the river and the road.
We bought permits
    for home burials
and kept our worry-beads
    strung through the sockets
of a horse's skull
    that dangled from a rail spike
above the door.
    We divided the land,
we filled in the wells,
    we spit in the river,
we walked among the cows
    and kept the shovels sharp.
Tonight I'm sitting
    on the back porch
of the universe
    in the first dark hours
of the Year of the Rat.
    I'm tuned-in to AM 520
and, depending
    on how intently I stare
into the black blooms of the sky,
    it either bounces
to high-school football
    or to a voice of bile
that makes its claims
    about a Celestial Empire
where everything conspires
    to become plague
or prophecy:
    a neighbor, the calendar,
an Arab, the dollar.
    The wind off the river
is weak and alone
    and obvious,  
it's like the voice of my brother.
     He's trying to melt the plastic coating
from a stolen bundle of commercial wiring,
    a black trickle of smoke
winding through his body
    to empty itself into a pool
that shimmers with the ink of nothing.
    If I had faith in the stars
I'd let those four there
    be the constellation of my brother
lying flat on the ground, asking for money.
    I like how he's resting
with his hands under his head
    as he stretches out among
the black wheat and looks up,
    almost lazily, as threads of light
shine down through the cracks
    in the trapdoors of heaven.
And I like the song
    he always almost sings,
the one he doesn't know the words to
    but has hummed to himself
in his few moments
    of absolute stillness.
And I like how he could be
    flat on his stomach, hands bound,
and the horses in front of him
    stamping in place,
ready to drag him for eternity
    as soon as I drop the red kerchief
from my iron fist.



© 2009 The Cortland Review