had logo

January 31, 2023

2 Poems

Todd Dillard

Every Time I See a List of Finalists I Look for My Name in Spite of How I Never Enter Anything

It's like being the third-to-next person in line 

at the water park's tallest slide, 

the rest of the park blobbed below

like the palette of a painter in their blue period,

broiled decking exfoliating my heels 

as I imagine all the ways I could die:

gashed open by a water tube's exposed bolt, 

trampled by the family of eight behind me, 

the whole slide collapsing in moon-colored coils

like the intestines of a dead whale.

I'd argue it's only a view if it comes 

with a glimpse of other ways to live.

I could be splitting a lemon sorbet with Samantha instead, 

or drifting like a tardigrade in a tear along the lazy river 

studying the infinite ways lifeguards are beautiful. 

And isn’t it beautiful to want to see yourself

in every place you look? Just this morning 

I hitched a ride in China’s newest bullet train,

polka danced with The Host on a pin head, won

England’s highest honor for drama

despite my astounding amounts of Americanness 

and how the only play I’ve ever written 

starred my daughter’s lion sock puppet. 

If the world is my award ceremony

then I would like to thank the academy of my desires.

And the pear orchards in my wife’s eyes. And the way 

my children get lost in the woods of my beard.

The blood on the cutting board. And the dishrag

mopping up the blood on the cutting board.

Without your support I’d still be here

but here would be a paper anchor, 

the stage a frothing tube of dark,

the roses not roses but the cusses of whistles,

the applause trebucheted from the wrong family 

as I'm finally being swallowed up.


I Let the Foxes Live

inspired by Frank O'Hara's "Poem"

Squeeze of clementine in the gin and tonic,

supple leather gloves the better to scoop the birds 

who stun themselves against my bay window, 


the birds most likely the language of my dead loved ones 

urging me to drink less, exercise more. Well 

I don't want to hear it! I love the world 


so like a reasonable man I build little bird chateaus, 

assemble little bird neighborhoods, organize feathered soirees.

I pocket seed and scatter it for miles---


when did the dead ever scatter birdseed for miles? 

Someone on Twitter said to make sure you marry a husband not a boyfriend

so I’m trying my best to be a good husband 


to the world, I don't give it flowers, I lice-

pick beer cans and candy wrappers from its hirsute shoulders, 

I comb its hills with my rolling body, 


I let the foxes live beneath my shed, 

I leave holes in my fence for rabbits to escape the foxes.

I don't need advice from people who have nothing to do with the world but be in it!


In return the world keeps on turning 

me into a poem. Exhibit A: the 20-year-old 

love note I found tucked into the bell of my college clarinet 


begging me to run away with the second chair.

Exhibit B: the world is ending 

and yet every night I fall asleep in my yard 


only to wake up the next morning 

in a sequin dress of champagne dew

as around me foxes evaporate like a fire going out


and tiny houses corona the air.