Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2022  Vol. 21  No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Field Blocks

Sometimes there is so much sky, you can’t see
out the window. The trees are snow again; the snow
is April rewinding its genetic code. The mice born
Crispred are young when they ought to be old. Ought-
to-be is a placebo of control. No one knows exactly
what belongs to us. The moon keeps falling
into poems—lozenge of love, etc.—a pinpoint to point
to when the earth gets unsustainable. The earth is
always unsustainable. The trees shake off their own
branches, or the wind does. The circuitry of living
keeps short circuiting. Shifty labyrinth, which like rhythm
is a word that refuses to be spelled right. I wait for
the rickrack red to un-underline it, tell me I’ve stumbled
into rightness. Stumbling-into-rightness is the best

I’ve come to hope for. A nerve block that hits the nerve
and quells it. The dentist says I have anastomosis. Crossed
wiring. My upper lip goes numb when the root refuses;
the drill strikes lightning to my earlobe. There is no
explaining me. Or a one-word explanation. Aren’t we all
open-mouthed in this season? Upended? Pincushioned
the dentist calls me on the fourteenth shot. I could make
metaphors. Gun laws/racism/redistricting. I could not
draw the line of my own nerves until they stun me. I am
desperate for the wrong right point for the needle to
deaden. I want a way outside my own mixed messages.
Each negation contains its own action, says a poet
I could call a frenemy if I wanted the truth to criss-
cross with politeness. Inside unclenching, clenching

my jaw. Teeth are exploding in record numbers now,
my dentist says. In my whole career, I’ve never seen anything
like it. We are always arriving at probabilities, stats,
which are not unmoonlike—something to point to if
our hands feel useless. Our own hands often feel useless.
We’re in one vast stress dream. For years in my sleep, gum
hardened in my mouth into taffy-superglue, bonded my
teeth together. I kept pulling out wads, shards. I’d never
get it all. It’s common for teens to dream they’re not in control
because they aren’t. Each negation contains its own action:
undreaming, unhurting. Can you feel your chin? I cannot,
but then this jolt of ragged, singed-nerve raw. Burn-
out is a noun now, plus a verb. I am trying to open my
mouth. Wider. Wider. We are waiting for my face to

unfeel itself. The dentist shows me a video. He’s not
racing his Porche because racing is illegal. He’s just
driving radar-jammer fast until the desert sky flies by
like a sci-fi wormhole tunneling into itself. Men do this
(I learn now) for fun: unracing, erasing themselves
to a single point. Is it wrong to draw a line to comfort
from his dangerous certainty? He’s holding the drill
again. Proceed to the route, proceed to the route, proceed to,
the voice in my phone says when I’m lost. It sounds
like increasing agitation. Of course I’m projecting.
If I knew how to proceed, wouldn’t I be proceeding?
Would-that-I-could can be an excuse for so much
inaction. If a system is broken, drive bracing for cliffs?
Drive faster to somewhere? Drive slower? Drive back-

wards? I’m lucky I’m unlikely to be pulled over. I’m
unnerved by danger, and the world is dangerous. Proceed
to the. Proceed to. I call the voice Little Lady as a joke
about sexism. It’s not usually funny: sexism. Clench.
Unclench my jaw. The journalist shows Powerpoints
of college-football rape headlines, pro-sports rape
headlines. Sports Illustrated waited to break the story
about assaults until after the swimsuit issue. Ask yourself,
she said, why that would be. There are bodies to move,
bodies to be moved. Balls in the air, so to speak. Lines
on the field. First down. Second down. I waited tables
for a year at a sports bar and never understood more
than football. Each negation contains its action: the men
kept playing on the field on the screen despite me,

like once an orthodontist stroked my hair and called me
beautiful as he talked about giving me nitrous. I bolted like
pain through a hot nerve. If you see the route in time,
you can proceed to the route. If aggression is hardwired,
it must have anastomosis—spreading out cattywampus,
cockeyed, skewed, etc. I can smell my nerves burning. But
now can’t feel them. Didn’t I want this? Still, I’m braced
for tripwires. When your mouth is on fire, it’s hard to open
wide enough to call out Wolf, Wolf! As a girl, I wanted to be
the girl in the movie, or was in love with the girl in the movie,
The Journey of Natty Gann. She’s run away to find her father
at a place called logging camp. It’s the Great Depression,
meaning economic, and other things. She’s androgynous,
scrappy, and would-be-raped except the wolf she’s adopted

(Wolf!) protects her. We’re lucky if our daemons find us, if
we climb the right boxcars. If the tracks go where we think
they will. The tracks often go where we think they will when
we wish they wouldn’t. It’s easy to predict the punchlines.
After Game of Thrones, everyone wanted a wolf. Now shelters
are full of huskies. Dreaming wilderness is not the same as
having to clean its paws. Burnout is a noun, a verb, a land-
scape. We’re wandering through it. Scientists are making real
synthetic dolphins. They’re indistinguishable in the Sea World
show. Look at the moon on their unskin. Isn’t it beautiful?
Most answers go with too many questions. We’re in the age of
the humane if you ignore the inhumanity, the wild-branching
monstrousness. Soon, someone will engineer teeth with no
nerves, so I can’t be miswired. I’ll open my perfect mouth.  

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