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Sample Poems by Nathanael Tagg

Unloading

Like a gyre full of refuse,
my father and I loop

from his house to the trash
transfer station and back.

At the station-wordless-
we unload his truck bed

while swallows seem
to unload their feelings-

talk and talk and navigate
around and through it,

the mound of junk-
embodiment of hang-ups.

They even use the mess
to fortify their houses,

nests in the shape of cups
that are tipping toward us.

Perched on one of the brims
is the most spirited bird,

whose hooded cloak is
a blue that glistens-

his tail a tuning fork
that points in our direction.

A ghostly fee collector
walks our way. Father, son,

and empty vehicle,
we roll onto the huge scale

and feel no lighter.
Then the ashen figures-

our weight, the price,
and the cost- begin to rise.



Billboard Jesus

I hung on my cross by the highway.
A boy, you watched in your crow-
blue station wagon, from the back seat
that faced backward. On bloody toes,
I danced ballet, enacted stories and ideas
using body gesture, then shrank
and disappeared at the rate at which
your father sped. Finally, you understand
I advertised openness, a different kind
of manliness-inhabiting the body
well enough there's no crucifixion.
Your almost broke father almost broke
the silence. "You, son, are a regular artist.
What's that you're drawing so well?"
he could have crowed. But you chose to
sit way back there, and he didn't ask why.
Your wagon-common, American-
flew away from the yellowing fields.
And, yes, I did feel like a scarecrow.


Delivery vs. Deliverance

If I were a woman working for the USPS,
you could call me a mailwoman,
which sounds like male woman.

The label almost fits me, since I try to broaden
my umwelt by acquiring traits the statues
of gods and goddesses near the post office
embody with their naked, dancing bodies

that change from white to brown, brown to white.

If I were also black, you wouldn't call me
a black mailwoman. Said too quickly,
it sounds like blackmail woman.
Mail carrier sounds like male carrier,
which would make it sound as if I transmit
a disease-namely maleness-
from which I myself don't suffer.

The father of Charles Olson was a mailman.
So was Bukowski himself. And my dad is one.
What does it mean? And what does it mean

that I never accompanied my dad on his route
but stole a pair of his blue-striped pants
to wear in college as a fashion statement?

It's a rare delivery that delivers deliverance.

Still, you sometimes kiss an envelope
because the mail will change your life, you hope.
Most mail offers no congrats, no truce plan, no
solace. As a mailman, I'd wear a rubber fingertip

to handle the envelopes you lick
and perhaps slip in and out of your back
pockets or bare thighs. My steering wheel
large and on the right side, the jangle
of keys proclaiming my presence, I'd struggle

to accept I work for the government
but have no power to govern.

How many steps would I take to your door?

1865-past the looted and charred.
I'd slip on a bloody police baton, land on shards
of squad car. Not on beaks or talons. What bird

is fixedly American? Not an eagle (white head
and black body). Not the mostly blue USPS
logo, flying full speed ahead-its eyes
seemingly shut for good.