A professor once wrote me that to write of fruit
or flowers or dreams, no matter how deftly,
is the lowest form of metaphor, after processions.
Years later, on the subject again, she said that time
indicted horses as well, most especially wild ones,
even the word wild, itself, government-arrogated,
legally defined, she meant, not by what the wild horses are,
as a species, but the context by which they roam
and where, and the manner in which
the land was theirs, she meant, was cheapened,
made public, an open space also owned—
what Neruda called “the infinite silence in which wheat is born”
when no one is looking, somewhere off-frame
in plains I refuse to render, or re-populate,
having read only yesterday how after the sweeps,
which The Bureau of Land calls mustanging,
the colonial-Spanish feral descendants remain somehow
sentient during dismemberment, later sold;
I think the saw’s sound, though an obsession of itself,
after a while, must be otherwise mundane,
no more enchanting than an idling truck full of Swedish Fish
that ship swiftly, my union friend said, from Hanover
east to Clifton and Passaic, then over the Passaic
River—its color, when rushing, a soiled denim
like my grandpa wore on the Morris Co. sewer crew
thirty-plus years, below the roads, breathing children’s waste
from St. Mary’s—and, eventually, the truck
of red treats arriving unseen at a 7-11,
or another such mart, where a night clerk hands back
loose heads of presidents the customer trusts,
by combined weight, is the right change
for a ten or two fives, Lincoln and Roosevelt touching
inside a pocket, jingling as they pass,
adjacent to the door, a smell of cold roses
in a sad yellow bucket, similar to one I puked in one June,
several times, after waking from a nightmare
in which I was, like Robert Lowell, dying
ignobly in the back of a cab, a heart attack
on The Garden State Parkway, while a low-angled sun-
set beat the marshlands into flat metallic fields,
the rear window, when I looked left, glare-blasted
translucent white as frost, and beneath my hand
on my galloping breast I felt the angles of a match-
book, in my shirt pocket, with its blue
font reading thank you! thank you! Please keep closed,
as if against my heart lay the door to a stable.





Brian Tierney‘s poetry and prose have appeared in: Boston Review, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, AGNI, The Adroit Journal, Best New Poets, and others. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and a graduate of Bennington’s MFA Writing Seminars, he was awarded the 2018 George Bogin Memorial Award from The Poetry Society of America, and has been a finalist for the National Poetry Series, Frontier’s Industry Prize, The Levis Prize from Four Way Books, and Ploughshares’ Emerging Writers Contest. In 2013, he was named among Narrative’s “30 Below 30” emerging writers. He lives in Oakland, Ca., where he teaches poetry at The Writing Salon.



read next: Cassandra Lee, “‘Mysteries of Small Houses’


“Hearses” appeared in TLR: Contents May Shift (Summer, 2020)