Nathan Slinker

In the Play, We Are Blossoms that Close Each Night

On your twentieth birthday,
                                    we were chopping wood
in the driveway and had gone through two cords when,
as I swung the maul down,
a white finch with a gray head landed on the rings.
There was nothing I could do.
                                          There will be
nothing we can do.

Black figures
push a scene offstage:
                                away rolls the table where
the chipped childhood is set in mosaic,
on it the heartwood ashtray, the bruised
pages of a cheap mystery.
                                     Gone too, our mother’s
favorite geranium,
the footstool that wept in October,

even the wreath of hair flowers
                                     from dead family members—
all into the wings with hardly a breath.

Story in which You Are One of the Lost Hunters

Hungry, we feed on gaunt wings our mothers cut
from shoulders and left. The girl

comes to me drunk—feathers falling from her lips
like the curses of a small town.

I twist half her words into a necklace. She fletches arrows
with the rest
                   to shoot into the stomach of sky
that won't even twitch
                               until we turn…

She follows dusk’s blood-track through fallow land,
through deep drifted snow
                                        and into a damp springtime
on the outskirts
                     where I wait, passed out in a cart. A dead man

leans on a fencepost, watches the girl
unclasp her necklace, give back everything.

In a field of wings behind him, the blue collapses.

The girl pulls a knife from her mouth,
walks into the field, and begins to clean the sky—
I lie still, staring up from the cart

until I can imagine
                          whatever it is I see.

Author Portrait

Nathan Slinker’s poems have appeared in Third Coast, Ninth Letter, CutBank, Waxwing, The Greensboro Review, and Kenyon Review Online among other journals. His poetry also appeared in Watershed Review in 2013 (Vol. 35 No. 2). He has been a Fishtrap fellow, a semi-finalist for the “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize and the OSU Press/The Journal Wheeler Prize, and a finalist for New River Press’s Many Voices Prize. He lives in Quincy, California.

View the website of Nathan Slinker