CL Bledsoe – Two Poems



Cats sweat through their paws. We learned this
when we looked up whether they pant, like dogs.
(They do.) They can leave paw prints from it across
the carpet if they’re overheated. My daughter coats
her hands in tap water and leaves a trail of perfect
hand prints along the couch until she sits
on my shoulder, pulls my arm out, and orders me
to hold her up. We’re watching something pink
on TV. When I was in school, Mr. Duval—an old
black man with a wooden leg—would make students
hold dictionaries if they spoke out of turn. That’s
what I’m doing now, holding the blond body, the tiny
waist on my outstretched arm. It was easy at first.
The kids all giggled and dared him to add more books
until the seconds became minutes, their faces pink
and then red, sweat darkening our shaking sleeves.

The Ocean

She wants to be connected to joy, invisibly,
but in such a way that even thunderstorms
won’t sever the tie. She points: this button
will clothe the animals of the forest, that one
will teach them to smile. I try to explain
that even wolves have to finish their dinners
before they can turn human, no matter
the size of the moon. Only the luckiest children
are taken by the tide and get to taste the apples
of the sea. Even then, there’s still homework,
except on weekends. It’s so hard. I’m loving
this learning, and if I keep saying that, it might
come true. I’m loving the constant argument
with the sun’s fingers that is growing up. When I go
to check if she’s picked her toys up, there’s salt
on the breeze blowing through her bedroom window.
We’re nowhere near the ocean. It doesn’t matter.
It will be years before she realizes all that noise
a little while ago was me, up on the roof, setting up
the fan, the water hose, pouring the Morton’s.
Whatever it takes to get the floor clean, the toys
put away, the smiles back on our faces.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

I think of beauty as something filtered through human experience, something full of tension because of its fragility, its liminal nature, much like life. It’s a search for stillness amongst the out-rushing waves of time. A flower that will die. A moment that’s already passed, captured. When that’s achieved, the result is perceived as beauty.


CL Bledsoe is the assistant editor for The Dead Mule and author of fourteen books, most recently the poetry collection Trashcans in Love and the flash fiction collection Ray’s Sea World. He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.