ALL ACCOUNTS AND MIXTURE: Poetry from CutBank 81 by Oliver Bendorf









In my mind, I beg our blood to work. To keep us loving

long after we’ve breached. I lean into your shoulder, not light

like a shearwater, but heavy and insistent as the horn of a goat.

The dunes that separate our maritime kingdom

from fields of corn are an elaborate set. The puppets may be

tragic, may be lonesome, full of gravity, but we are deliberate

and afraid of nothing. We kiss at the bar, tequila heavy

on our knees, like whales identifiable only by certain scars.

He slaps the water with his fin because he can, the naturalist had said.

Back at the campground, sunburnt, in the dark, we find each

other’s heads below the blueberry shrubs (because we can)

and we do so in the shape of love, which is a peninsula.

We are setting up the rain fly. We are stoned and can’t get it right.

We are inside our minds thinking, I was almost an island.

It never does rain. I never do get bored. Leaving the Cape

on Route 6, we chew taffy and listen to oldies. Here is

the bridge. We do not hit traffic. We do not break down.



I practiced on a dead possum

my father and I found on a walk

through the woodlot. After dinner

I snuck back down to the woods

where the skull hung at eye-level

in the knot of a tree and I said

“Marry me.” The possum’s other bones

lay to the side of the trail,

buried under the first fallen leaves.

Other days, I thought

I might ask it with glow-in-the-dark

stars on the bedroom ceiling,

or on the chalkboard if she got a

teaching job. We were, as they

say, not getting any younger. In

the little woodlot in Iowa

under the quiet gaze of bones,

queer theory nagged at me

like yesterday’s nettle in the finger.

There were too many reasons

why I was not supposed to want

to marry her, but we wouldn’t

have to tell. We could just do it.



Oliver Bendorf is a writer and visual artist living in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the author of The Spectral Wilderness, selected by Mark Doty for the 2013 Wick Poetry Prize and forthcoming September 2014 from Kent State University Press.