Jonathan Travelstead 



The pitbull voice says
Take this, my capsule, its orange and clear ends
unsleeved for you, and come up

in remembrance of me.
The addict's tongue is pasty, Dreamsicle-orange with
bitter amphetamine salts. Iris flare,

sunlight falling. Hummingbird,
nesting in the space between ribs. Your last thought,
you are it, sustained forever.

O Benzedrine, Dexedrine,
O Cold blue angel of methylphenidate, Concerta, and Ritalin-
I hum with praise, I hum with joy,

I hum blind, cordant glory in octaves 
that thread, overlap. I hum a stream of confessions overflowing
their banks. I am many acolytes speaking,

an army of tongues. I am the fleet foot's 
quickened step. Forgiveness for transgressions against me 
I've already forgotten. I lift (Hosannas) 

these tongues to the frequency and strata 
of endless accomplishment and unrequited acquisition I lift them 
in this euphoria of title and order and gain

in dumb, narcotic bliss. (please hear me in the 
parentheses, this Hosanna's fevered plea that it pierce obsession) 
Bless this gritty ambrosia for me and only me, 

(o, power, save me from this pitbull focus, 
this verbal masturbation) and I ask that you lift me faster higher longer 
in your glory

(god save this rat trapped in the sugar stores Amen)



Pripyat: Forest Wormwood

Oksana rolls down the van window, points the yellow detector
at the trees, a collection of skeletal scotch pines and acacias
called also the Black Forest, or Red Forest. It ticks at first,
then ratchets up to a chitter. The digital readout shows forty sieverts,

which means we can't go there. I see what needles haven't fallen
from the whispy trees are brown, that the snow doesn't accumulate
at their base despite hoary branches. She says the thickest
limbs blush, choked with plutonium, that strontium-90

is responsible for the blood color which gingers the papery bark,
curling it like wet paper, dried. That iodine, and cesium-127
rust the conifers' veins with rosin hard as unlidded cans
of red paint. I think of cadavers in the Body Worlds exhibit

in Chicago. Muscles deflated of blood, injected with plastic
so we could see statues made from the living. An article
I saw somewhere about The Atomic Man- Harold McCluskey-
which said an explosion blasted his face with americium

and bits of metal, irradiating his body with five hundred times
the maximum allowable dose. He shouldn't have survived a day,
a week, but died years later of an unrelated heart disease.
Once more she waves the detector's reedy faxing noise

toward the wraithlike pines, can't explain how they still stand.
The sluggish diesel whines beneath us as she drives
into the land of comic book origins. Hometown of giant lizards.
Waxhouse mannequins for the carnival.



Just now and already fading is the blue church
and the blue graveyard, the glowing copse of trees and other
myths the train gallops us away from.

Glimpsing such light honeys me back to a child’s 
lesson in duty like an anglerfish lures prey with its lantern,
or St. Elmo’s light lures lost travellers 

who then dash themselves against the stony shore. 
Had I stayed home, would fairy tales enter into me 
as they do now? Stories of Arthur and his knights I read, 

then illustrated- poorly- on a legal pad as a child. 
A child with holiness in his eyes who believed such stories
into parables, and parables into gospel 

he studied in spiritu sancto like manuals for gallantry.
By day I wanted that flawlessness gleam
from my wooden sword as Sir Galahad the Pure, 

and like Sir Gawain- Defender of the Poor, and of Women-
I wanted also a need for worlds to save,
fires to extinguish, so I asked for a burr cut

that my head, bulbous and assymetrical,
would fit the child's green bucket with holes
visored in cellophane, and with holes cut out for eyes 

in hopes a diadem of light would appear above it.
By dark, mantled in the stars and moons of sheets,
I wanted a magician's judicious nature. I wanted so much

that it seemed twenty-four hours a day 
want thrummed to such a fevered pitch I could have
split like a hot stone. Clacking along my tracks, I can't tell

how far it is from there to here,
but the distance widens. I no longer have requests
for celestial bigwigs as I travel now by this open window, 

breathing particles of Hobbs and my Mother, 
memories of carbon and the long-necked brontosaur. 
Open air asks nothing to fill it,

so neither do I, illumined in a path of light
that has long ago received word that its star has died,
but travels still. This train car is a buoy for movement,

and pines passing outside blur their living across me.


Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro (Illinois). Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia. He has published work in The Iowa Review and on among others, and his first collection How We Bury Our Dead by Cobalt/Thumbnail Press is forthcoming in 2015.


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