when the meat calls itself from the grass and water
the cowboy feels his calloused hands
as flank steaks stained pink
the smell of boundary paint aerosols him in halos

the fence runs out in a circle
a skeleton
blood “this is mine”

bright calf
the big dipper in your left eye
the soup in your right eye

darling of fleshy territory
where are you?

he can’t forgive
what he can’t see
all the trespassers mew invisibly
so he shoots himself instead

                                   now the ox-tail curls
                                   for the maggot twitch
                                   it seems a hand is in his
                                   or a mort’age writ

the right of man is a calorie
of puffballs gone to smoke
in a cowpie


                 The small nouns
Crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
startle, and stare out.

                                              – George Oppen

I followed him here
by the letter blood
makes as a dried run
down his calf

the sandaled foot of the priest
his robes held up with fists
he walks the tangled path
through the rushes

there isn’t enough wood
to hold my face together
so the sheep must fall out
my hands, slip between

before I have time
to make them a thought
and the priest

becomes the smoke of range fires
in the pleasant valley
where I become lost
grinning into my useless ax blade

into an hour of cheat grass
the spindle shape
of the sheep’s mouth
chewing me down to a mirage


Adrian Kien grew up in Elko, NV and Missoula, MT. He received his MFA from Boise State University. He is the author of The Caress is a Letter of Instruction (Slope 2012) and several chapbooks and collaborations with his wife, the painter, Kelly Packer. He has taught in the Writers in the Schools Program and at Boise State University. He currently lives and writes in Butte, MT.



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