Kevin Oberlin
Book Whose Belief Punishes Silence After the Awkward Pause

under the pages, an unfamiliar marka code in need of an interpretercopy it down into memorya wise childevery sign I’ve ever seen has been a sign of something
washing a plate that already smells of soapI’ve been over this beforecloth over the thumb to wipe the rimto look through a thing and not see the truth of itwhat am I looking at?
let me tell you a story I think you’ll appreciateprobably won’t understand this right awayeye contactwe reflect each otherit’s as if you already know
I know how to keep a secreta simple man may have a complicated pastput down your guns and I will take them from youyour eyelashes tremble with uncertaintythe block and tackle, the plane and lathe
take her hand and help her over the thresholdthe will of God is that you go to bedpart the whispers that cradle your pillowan empty cup slammed against the tableif I knew the will of God, don’t you think I’d tell you?

Book of Permanent Goodbye

for a moment, I believe I am the Biblesome self-righteousness comes with the territorythe ford breaks too soon, follows the riverby the rule of my order, my hair grows grayunnumbered pages get out of sequence
pack and unpackwhat do you tell the people you almost leave?a storm’s never as sudden as the impulse to fleetwist the wire round twicea hole in the rock, a place for water
if I sold my horse and hammers, then I could not go to buildhelp me carry my bags, my burdensat the landing where the ships dock before becoming birdsI don’t much care to do thatGod’s face, black with believing
a pen for cattlethe perfect sermona look I gave my father onceput up your dukesunholy fire
after I make a better planlet me say this about myselfa broken arm, a broken arma push against the pagebut I don’t need to tell you

Like Soup Whips the Apple

both of us damaged goodsstained glass makes a sound like paperI have to go retract the apple you ejectedhandbook, page eighteena girl in a lavender shift submerges her toes
my letter says, “not a good girl”suspicion confirmedwhen I look in your eyes, I see a baker’s dozen like the circles of juice on your shirtshe is a bird
someone else’s mother will catch youlike an acorn stuffed with silkpretending you’re not my alter egoyour tickles pleaseshe slips
first, I tie you up for rope burnsbelly fleshhooray for the feast of the fetusconsult the footnotes before you askroll the cider barrel down
squint to read the fine printall voices impersonatedthe death rattle the baby makesyou have to guess the ingredientsyou think she’s asleep, but she isn’t

The Decay of Collective Memory

too much wrist in my wishes past the old canalyour collar is your colorwhere we used to float, floatershave to place your shots
emptied of watersevered spine, so much bloodpanic, test it with toothpicksthe fires are homelessAmaranthus
I remember the songs of the logsclugga-dug, clugga-dugshouldn’t bite like that, do it like thistermites rot in the denominatorwe are staves, but will be wood
in the bookseller’s doorwaytwo women, lovers, two different languagesholding your breath won’t helpwe are aqueductsour lives take time to select us
in a room that smells like mineand my toes, cogsI’m looking to kick a few heads incan I borrow the dollar you borrowed?my heart, a potato
Kevin Oberlin is the author of one chapbook, Spotlit Girl (2008). His poems have appeared in various journals including The Centrifugal Eye, Pilgrimage, Verse Wisconsin, and Pank.