Buxton Wells-


was maker, not sharer.
We’ve argued over his droppings
(and someone said why
smash the chairs?), though his
grasp of things anticipates

the buttonhook and the rise of Man.
Those skinners came before the Druids
who fell for a race of blondes
who made their holes in the snow.

We’re now excitable beyond
all bounds, like overlapping cavalries
at war with birdsong, trees
and the weather.

All the properties
are overturned, and landless bastards
are never home.

And who are such neighbors
that let us live?

What would a servant do?


We should have known
that our lust could be curbed–
in fact, edged and close-cropped
and kept like a green lawn
where we walk two abreast in our circle.
My eyes are sated, my arms are in love,
but the issue is dunned in the making.
The heart’s belated gathering
rots in the field.
Such is my reward.

I’ve come to tender my father’s part.
Who tenders my father’s goat?
My expectations are given in marriage,
my love being part of the given.
The rest I withhold to be purified.

Such is my joy.


We need an ur-version of ourselves
to be weighed against, because someone
will harp on the bottom line, and
someone will say “at the end
of the day”–when days are ending
every which way–and there will be
no need of us, or dreaming us.

A professor once dared us to dream
in our blood, in the high church of our
whetted cells. And why?
We forget to generate. And why?
Because acts are not lovely,
because life is shrill and the hammers fly.
To refer to it at all is Mannerism.

No matter how crisply
a thing is done, no matter how hectic
the presentation or pedestrian the thought,
how precious at the edges, how nodal,
how wedded to its armature–the thing
is just done. The bells
are worn.


This sort of postural drainage
smacks of the idler, the scapegrace
with his notions and his wagon. Now
we’ve loads to shift from ourselves.
We’re in the unsparing present,
whatever acts
and is.
What governs our heartless appetites
is bulbous pride, the humpback ire,
the girl with her hips dialed in,
her first kiss, car wreck and pink slip
all theme parks now.


Are you my intended, and be thou Whole,
to be of use,
to double the weight and halve the time,
to parcel out our minds?

Are you the one, the intemerata
whose heels never pounded a runway
whose head never pounded meat,
whose truth speaks last,
whose errors are final?

Given your memories swept,
your pledges banned
commitments cancelled, and blood
never brought to mind;

Given our boundaries, disparities
of age, habitus, temperament,
the taste of a sameness,
the difference in the rind;

Given the hope that is in the world,
and not above or beyond it,
given the faith of my failing eyes,
and charity double-blind:

I’d court my death
or a thousand ills.

I’d give the world another chance–its chances
taken, our plight ignored–and lean for once
on my own understanding.
And when it is done,
being done in your name,

I’d hear the world start coughing again,
or the light that ravels out from your hair
and weighs these vestments down
will be chill water,
and the first renewal in morning light

would have already happened, or failed
to happen, the day belonging to someone’s
dear daughter, someone’s intended,
some thought for tomorrow
still in the air.


A breakthrough would come,
if it comes at all, by a rout of my
expectations. All things habitual,
conditional and learned, in all
the one-eyed universe, done.

It comes without sex or money—
it may be propitious to say so.
It may be religious, but I wouldn’t
insist on it now. I know
not to ask what is useless to ask.

I’d sever my poorer relations—
my hand apart from my genitals,
my wallet from my state of mind—
I’d absent myself from my rented
self, my life from my taxable living,

and live in this state of siege, awaiting
the breakthrough. Better to die
than to see it coming,
take liberty
and property together.


Our children wave, presenting themselves
as pulled out of storage,
the cabinet of foils,
the tower of race.

It follows
that we should clutch at our robes and
our thinking caps

and give
the counterwave.



No stew is pure, no one half minds when the
stew is indelibly there in our hearts, metabolizing
what love would destroy.

The facts are there in the black pan, with no effusions
wrapped in delight or sprinkled with adjectives.
We only pronounce them thick and improved.

The stew is what’s left of our expectations,
of understandings before the flood, not knowing
the categories–the not this and not that–not knowing

the birds or the common plants, the fleshed-out parts
of the flower, but only the pause when the stalk’s
cut down, when the blithering stops and the neck is wrung.

We know what the lowliest hog-scraper knows:
that the hard-boiled head splits open, that the hand’s
degloved, that the nail dissolves but the toothpick passes,

that a boy gets scalded–or baked in a pie–and lives,
because death is unfeeling, and pain is abandoned
by its friends. The unwilling flesh abounds.

The work descends on the sliding board, consigned
to the rolling boil, turning gray in a slough of onions,
whole contingents herded in, hearts pitched in

with the brains, skulls bobbing. We shouldn’t ask–
lest we spare the victims–whose pleasure it is
to fall from the bone, who holds the truth in his teeth.

We’d slam the headboards on winter eves, we’d split
the wild trouble between us. But pleasure resolves
in an iron belly, in peristaltic waves it comes

or else the meat becomes mush, potatoes a slurry,
the stew so much standing water–while a pinch
of miraculous dust is supposed to make gravy.

The stew should not grace, but upset the table–
no immanence over transcendence! The flesh
would compose and delight itself–no comfort food!

The natives have their stake in all this, where
every goddess takes her squat, as wanting that
indelicacy, we wonder

what the natives want.
It takes the jawbone of an ass to recite, the slightest
vestige of a tail to wag, but the fires we tend

neither warm nor enclose, and the stew–still
a mystery of dietary law–is as stringy and tough
as anthropological yarn.


Buxton Wells was born in Iowa, raised in Virginia, and is a longtime resident of Memphis, TN.  Appearances online with Winning Writers [2004, 2006], Umbrella, and Wandering Army [2007] constitute his publication history to date.  He has his expectations.