Poems for the Dead

Blaine returns… including completely unrelated, but really cool photos taken by his talented behind that thepaintedman stole from his facebook page.

A Short History of Foxes


The night my friend Ben died, I got drunk.
Forget parts of the night
drunk. When I went to bed, I dreamt
over him: I could see him performing a flawless
breast stroke: reaching the middle of the lake:
his strokes coming slower now:
fatigue taking him: a muscle cramp:
then he went under.

The night grew colder, the water was freezing.
I could tell by looking. I waited for him
to come up again.
Across the lake,
I swear that I could see a quick blur of brown fox.
But he never did:

The quick brown fox jumped over.
Lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumped over the
dog. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy.
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy boy.


When I was six, I went crayfishing
with my cousin at the creek by his house.
The sport was simple: all you needed

to catch a crayfish was two
plastic cups: with surgical
precision, you placed one behind

the crayfish and used the other
to guide the small shellfish
backwards into the waiting

cup. While I was guiding a small
creature into my trap
cup, I saw a large brown fox out

of the corner of my eye, waiting
for us to move further downstream
to begin its hunt.


The moon hangs so low
in the sky tonight that I
can taste its silver

It’s lonely like a
young girl’s heart and sorrowful
like summer’s ending

My brown ears prickle
as night’s cold wind blows death through
the bones of old trees:

The quick brown fox jumped
over the lazy dog. Quick
brown fox jumped over

the lazy dog. The
brown fox jumped over lazy
dog. The quick fox jumped


Shortly after crayfishing, my dreams were all fox, all brown,
all quick, rushing through the forest’s ink quill

My legs forgot the motion that was written there and I couldn’t
run. I stood stone still
and watched as the creature moved closer, licking its little lips

the smell of it: nauseating—sulfur that leaves a strange
sweetness on the back of the tongue.

I could feel its wet nose at it sniffed at my
feet and legs and crotch

and I could feel its warm breath
as it stood on hind legs:
looked at me, opening
its mouth wide and dragged its teeth
across skin.

One night, I left the house to walk to the creek
and the fox was waiting:

The quick brown
jumped over the lazy dog.
The quick
brown fox
over the lazy
dog. The quick
brown fox ate
lazy boy.

Twelve Haikus for Jack

Mad Jack,
you are too sad
for words.

Your scrolls
all crumbled
to dust and flown,

your pens
all dried up
lakes of blood.

You look so
young in every
picture I have seen,

no older than me,
your eyes
are ancient trees.

You broke
more hearts
than you’ll ever know,

more men
than any army,

but brought
just as many
back from the dead.

The birds sing
so sad tonight
over your grave,

the leaves all
catch in air
like ice and weep,

and you there
sitting in Heaven
petting Tyke.

Sad Jack,
you are too mad
for words.

Tropicana Orange Juice Jar Philadelphia 1922

My grandmother kept half-dollars
in an old orange juice jar above
the neon orange dish drainer

which always held a knife, fork,
breakfast plate, and the pan she used
to make her eggs—cooked with a

fork to make them extra scrambled.
It isn’t much, she’d say, but when I pass,
I want my grandkids to split it up,

buy something small with it
to remember me by.
When she died, the summer before

my junior year of high school, my parents
gave me the jar, filled to the rim
with silver half-dollars

and the yellow piece of legal paper—
with her barely legible scrawl of numbers
written in felt tip marker: 87.50.

I bought a small box with it, left some coins
in there. I kept the jar, too, used it to keep
bottle caps. During a party, once,

a friend stumbled into the fridge and I watched
as the jar fell, hit the ground, shattered. I still make
my eggs extra scrambled, the way she taught me.

A Letter to Charles Atlas

Did you ever see a tiger with a barbell?
Charles Atlas


The thin man swings a sledgehammer, the bell
above him rings out. A tiger roars as Charles Atlas
approaches: muscle pitted against muscle: the secret
of success. His body tenses as he wraps his hands
around the creature’s thick neck, pins it to the ground,
his muscles pulled so tight they quiver as he sweats.

The tiger was dead, the children: crying. Atlas
had let go a few seconds too late:
the body shook a few times before going limp.


Dear Mr. Atlas:

I ordered your Dynamic Tension program
through issue 47 of Superman, it was August
and I weighed 103 pounds, by February
of the next year, I had put on 47 pounds
of muscle.


When I sent my letter to Charles Atlas, I licked
the stamp, placed it carefully on the envelope,
carried it to a blue mailbox: the next
day, I read in the paper:

Charles Atlas, the Body Builder
And Weightlifter, is Dead at 79


Herc followed his footsteps, I’m sure,
when his father had not returned
from his run.

When Charles Atlas’ son found his body buried
face down in the sand, I imagine he picked up
the body, still large and toned (he would never
have let himself return to the 97-pound weakling
in old age) and carried him the whole way, sand
finding its way into his flip-flops and burning
the skin of his heels as he ran, not noticing the pain
until he was home.


Your program is solely responsible for a transformation within
myself that is completely indescribable. While I never had sand
kicked in my face, I was completely invisible before Dynamic
Tension. Last year, while visiting the beach, I met the most amazing
woman. We are to be married this June and I would be honored
if you attended the wedding with your children.

Warmest regards,


~ by thepaintedman on February 4, 2011.

One Response to “Poems for the Dead”

  1. […] This is a 1.0 ReTread. Read the original TPM 1.0 post here. […]

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