A Woman Explains the Presence of Bison

Knapweed blazes, lunatic blue,
                                                  spreading its poison
             through gray and gold grass.

Ice smokes in the sunlit ditch
             and Anne stands by the bison fence

             telling me how her Arapaho grandfather
found one, rheumy and sour-furred,
                          pacing the northern border like an outlaw.

With white men and ropes
                  he wrestled it, trussed it, and hauled it here—

                         where it sired,
                                                 went mad, and died of colic

inside a cattle crate, its stomach on fire
                                              with foreign flowers.


Poorly Possessed

In my new apartment I keep
       my lights on yet a little of the past

                 sneaks in tonight it is
        Lisa in particular her hips

in particular as she walks
        shirtless in our rented room

              dusk sliding over the rain slick
    alleyway as this walk betrays

each shade of happiness such
          happiness like a flowering

              of greed that makes her
      clumsy as a doped-up cat

or someone wounded and
               high on painkillers

       arms loose and steps heavy
and that smile she’d had

       many graceful moments
                  like when she dived

     near a jellyfish and warned
me rising in the evening sun

or taught me etiquette so slyly
           dining with her parents in

      canal-reflected light they never
noticed but I loved her

  awkward moments best
        when there were three of us

              her and me and her
  body not really known

to her anymore her
            body I conspired with.

Wandering Poem

Clear water rises,
retreats over dark
stone. The lights
of the city beat
faint patterns
in the gleam
of a silver
bracelet. A teenage
girl is lost
among the bars.

Wherever I have
been, I have been
without words,
these leaves turning
over as they
descend, exhale
of days through which
we fall like
water into a division
of hours. Somewhere
there must be peace
like the idea
of horses.


I want to touch
the fine lines
thinking makes
inside the body—
like the light
of a door


Loneliness in us
grows smooth
like a stone
as days pass
over it. We learn
its voice. It’s not
our particular
curse, our curse
is we’re always
in danger of
reminding someone
of their own—

the wind, too,
is a conversation
that outlasts
any of its dialects.


Windows dream
TV light
into snowfall. Someday
you’ll lie down
like a river
in the moment
of freezing and hold
the shape
of your last thought.


As a child, you chased
a hawk’s shadow
across muddy leaves
in an empty plot—
to watch it turn
in stitchless blue,

breath caught, your life
on loan to you.

RYLER DUSTIN’S poems appear or are forthcoming in The Best of Iron Horse, American Life in Poetry, Gulf Coast, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from the University of Houston and a PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and has performed on the final stage of the Individual World Poetry Slam. His book, Heavy Lead Birdsong, is available from Write Bloody Publishing.