Monday, July 9, 2018


for D.W.B and J.R.R

How the body must know before the spirit.
How, on waking, maybe weeks before,
one ankle crumples as foot touches floorboards
gritty with river silt; how before first light

the head refuses to swivel, knowing
when it does, the empty side of this large room
remains an emptiness. Sometimes, the number of days
is a diaphanous cloud of gnats,

undulating against hot air, refusing
to let a body alone. I cannot recall details.
How the fingertips, long gone from that white room,
feel still petechiae on the underside

of one arm; feel stillness. How the ribcage
caved slightly. How breath slows. How this body
is now a receptacle for spirit,
begins to grieve before the paper reprints each

tribute, always begun with name . How the heart,
this heart that still beats-not each one that does so no longer-
becomes an eagle with wings spread
at the top of the blackened, dying spruce.

How the eagle begins to ululate. How it carries,
gritty with longing, across the taiga,
how the keening and the wind together are still
not enough to call down his mate.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dusk on the Columbia River, July 2017

What of the lives lived in valley,
in canyon's shadow,
and endless doubt? Will it rain?
What if I doubt it?

What of the traveling salesmen, door-to-door.
The wholly subjective buttoning
of rayon-blend suit coats over cheap

dress shirts. What difference
in the distance between a red farmhouse,
its weathered-gray equipment shed?

Between the tamed mare and the mustang colt?

One historic assayer's office
and the bakery made from a bank?

Multi-family complex, and the highway, steaming
with new asphalt left to cure?

One more block, we weary bargainers say.
One more pair

of steel kitchen knives, another bottle of tincture.

Another matched trio of red
ceramic vessels.

One more bit of the Self
and I'll head home.

And never mind where the money comes from, tonight.
It's only a few dollars for cream honey, for day lilies
to brighten the windowsill.

Every tree on this block is swathed at its base

in carcasses.

Once a cacophany, cicadas now dried, brown.
Detritus of some May-pole too withered to dance.
I shall cover the rent for this life

What audacity we practice.
Don't tell me what to do, he said once.
I won't, I muttered.

Just don't leave me. 


And I had never cared
for lavender. Had never wanted myself
to smell of cleanliness, of a white sheet

folded just so. Had never wanted

Bran muffins, granite countertop.
Shelves full of books dog-eared, gray.
A cream-colored guitar.

To take count:
a stock of breaths, not in nor out,
but every sixty husky seconds.
Still. And the same. Yet, still...

And when my hands were idle,
I climbed in beside her.
And then we were two bodies
supporting a body. 
Not a trinity.
Not as one.

Outside this open window
was once a greenbelt, she said.
Look down there. That birch.
Once, there were others.

I asked what I could take.
What could be carried home,
as if somehow my back, my shoulders
could bear it.
I did not expect to hear

A mother enters, and is asked
to trade velveteen blanket
for the cool, clean, white sheet
she carries. 
First, she must sort it from the gray
t-shirt, some socks. 
From under one pair of navy 
boxer shorts. And these
she places, folded,
in the dresser drawer.

And I had never cared
for lavender, save for now, on her wrists
and his temples.
Save for the scent of it filling
the bed on the white sheet.
Had never cared,
myself, to witness.

She says, ashes. 
A siren begins on the street below.


Tuesday, June 18 2017

I'm over-caffeinated and stressed out.
 And I'm talking about death and dying with three different people. 
About where to carry their ashes when they
or their loved one are gone. Adding to the pinheads 
on a map where you cannot touch the monument 

after it's built. 

Because, inevitably, it becomes a riverbed. 
An ocean floor. Nothing but sand. 
Becomes the ground.

So I'm not writing. Not today. Today I search 
for road races that force their runners off-road. 
That don't end for days. That begin and continue and end at night,
because, you see, it's better to use the shock 
of the heels, curvature of back against the heaviness 

of an up-hill. Than to use the eyes. 

Than to attempt to peer at the Earth 
while you're carrying it. Spheres, orbs. 

On the back of the spider are a thousand more.

Scatter me here, please, 
they're saying.

A trail of silk on the wind. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

This article/ must adhere to the biographies of living/ persons policy

{{DEFAULTSORT:Burleson, Derick}}

Only libraries sort you by last 
name first but this is what this is isn't it
the biggest canon
you can't escape it someone is always editing
you always typoing your published titles always
making up bullshit facts to pass a class to keep from having to really
look you up
[[Category:American male poets]]
I mean did you really think before you went out to feed the dogs
to curry your horse did you really 
think you had all this time for masculinity for living alone 
for farming still for scattering grain for chickens
in this godforsaken cold did you wonder 
any longer how heavy your boots are by themselves
how much weight is added by the psi of feet on permafrost ground
[[Category:Living people]]
some fucking asshole is going to say I can tell already 
without hearing it without words passing from any lips 
into air some asshole will have already typed if not saved it
'but not anymore'
[[Category:People from Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska]]
There are are 300 miles between here and there and I thought you knew that
thought you had calculated the distance I could travel before you'd hit the floor
before the pole star came out thought you could tell Venus from a biplane 
a bush plane carrying someone else's musher daughter supplies
pilot bread freeze-dried chicken and noodles and maybe some dog fish
but you have always had your own fish your own stash your own way 
and you never cared much for fishing alone so I thought you'd wait
thought you'd be preserved a little frozen like maybe you'd stay yourself 
until I got there
[[Category:University of Alaska Fairbanks faculty]]
The driest entry there is is the one where they try to explain what you did in ten words 
or less the reduction of a lifetime just keywords just in case someone 
who needs a research topic researches you looks you up but not by name uses only
what they think you did which is not who you are unless you talk to you
unless you hear your voice emanating from behind a lectern reading lives and lives and lives
from pages you put your students your friends your lover's breaths onto
[[Category:Poets from Alaska]]
I didn't save this you know didn't edit a damn thing this is its own poem but it's not
about you is it it's blowing like a pre tornado wind over a prairie here but cold
colder than Fairbanks actually colder than what exactly 
because the worst is that you didn't wait you didn't have the coffee going you
didn't stick around to see it to its end and I didn't save you you know
didn't have time didn't edit 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Low-pressure System

"skin not bound to the other’s
skin and the afternoon cumulus
rolling in with the smell of rain"

Derick W. Burleson

Bound by breastfeeding, it would have been
difficult to run. Cumulus

clouds graying the Sleeping Lady,
the sleeping baby

in one arm, a burnt Coke can in the other hand.
Another afternoon that felt like a rolling

blackout, hope itself extinguished
while green things rose in the rain.

And I, lady-hostage, with skin singed
by hands, not by fire;

cleaning curdled milk from a tiny
chin's folds.  In the next room, another's skin

beaded with acrid sweat,
freckled with tiny, telltale punctures

gives off a mist like evaporating rain.

I who slept so little save in the afternoon,
rolling chef's knife handle between palms.

Weighing the balance

of tang against flight.



"and if the storm kept
on storming you couldn’t stand
it couldn’t stay within your body"
Derick W. Burleson

If this wind keeps on, there won't be any pigeons
left, poor beleaguered birds
buffeted about.

This wind has surpassed freight train, 
has named itself storm,
though sun shines.

Purple-and-gray missiles fire
from corrugated roof to treetop.
They can't stay within their bodies,

these pigeons. They're catalytic.
They can't stand thermals
rising from tin,

but want ballistics, want cold.
Want sky.

I stepped out into the storming
this morning, early, and felt
the top of my head

come clean off. The pink mountaintops
gyrate with blown snow.

You shot past me, both cannon and iron ball,
split to pieces by
this wind. To feathers. To shot.

I had no time to pull you together,
no heat within
to use for smelt,

to use to pull out your last precious
metal. That's good, you see.

There was no time.
I couldn't name you, couldn't call you