Phantom Limb

       Put your ear to the ground.
                    You aren’t listening for horses
       although you’d think that’s
                    what you’re hearing at first—
       the funny thing about static—
                    that we mistake it for crickets,
       highways, throbbing pain.
                    I went deaf for four days
       and I didn’t hear static
                    just as what you hear in a shell
       isn’t the sound of the ocean.
                    I’ll turn the dial over. There.
       The radio predominantly echoes
                    the universe tearing stitches open.


       You don’t know what it is to be vast
       at a four-way stop, mind made up

       to take all the turns at once, to be
       land, water, the lap and overlap,

       to be all the stones that touch water
       and the one the land can’t swallow.

       Take a minute. This wave will pass.
       Talk to walls when the ceiling won’t listen.

       The roof, the mulberry, that lone hawk.
       Who am I to talk? No one’s listening,

       every door in the house is open.
       Anyone can go from room to room.

       Sleep in my bed. Wear my clothes.
       I’ll hear their voice in my mouth.

Six Voices for Starlings

       If you speak you speak.
                    You are the cavity
following an oar as it passes,
                    fluent in waves.
       Wind without sail
                    sail without wind.
You don’t keep a ship afloat.
                    It does that by itself.

       Rage lies where it always does.
                    In your hand.
       A brick this time.
                    It is night again
       and this street is blind.
                    The last door
       locks from the inside.
                    In the alley a cat steals
       the voice of a sleeping girl
                    who wakes
       and can’t ask why.

       Through what else but absence
                    can a bird fly?
       What else but an absence of that bird
                    can the sky find?
       Besides the absence in some sky,
                    what else is a bird?

       Waters turn to sour milk.
                    A salt cured breeze
       hints of fish and a freeze-dried smell.
                    No moon, no star, no tide.
       What do we jettison?
                    I pick me, you pick you.
       The drift of a boat
                    without the boat to drift.

       I have an appetite for sugar
                    and hands with nothing in them
       but other hands, to be
                    see-through and see through you.
       The shadows that pass through me
                    are not even birds.

       When your eyes turn white
                    you are not standing in the dark.
       You are surrounded by figments
                    and a blind world of lefts,
       the days walk in circles into months.
                    You speak if you speak.

Karl Zuehlke‘s poetry has appeared in The Loaded Bicycle, Inscape, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. He won Best Creative Presentation at the Conference at the University of North Texas’ Critical Voices Conference 2014 for translations of an East German Poet. A former Lannan Fellow, former Interviews Editor for The American Literary Review, he holds a BA from Florida State University, an MFA from the University of Maryland College Park, and seeks a PhD at the University of North Texas.