3 poems — Steven Teref


In the centigrey light of the living room, a skinned gutted deer dangles by calves on meat hooks. From the cavity, 500,000 cockroaches scuttle up its legs and across the ceiling. Eyelashes of ex-lovers tremble in the crevices of crown molding. In the dim kitchenette, add a charred corpse effect before the lesion throbs and stretches in the cold stove.



I spill earth in your name.

I wait in your emerald. Cisplatin’s turbine obscures October’s rustle. I can’t jump off the horror-go-round. The blood marker stock market. Behind my cornea: a wind-wrapped flight. Vitreous fluid: ghost station dust. Airplanes born in fiery buildings. Inside fear: x-ray light.

 None so large as ––

the white orb blurs,
then closes,

but no,
  not closed. My body rapt.
Not catheter, hostile though;
  nor cantaloupe. A crab,
clamping; open and fold.



Answers trickle from a salivary gland. Acoustic tumors in the cheek squeak like patent leather shoes of the conspiracy theorist. The smoking petrol fields on the horizon are the barrier, the roof that sheathes me from the sun. The long wrecks of sleep wrap me in shadows. I’m not the uncirculated coin in the hand but the shucked oyster in the radiation field. I’m without walls. I live in the leakage. Cooked white rat flesh in a cold oven. Am I an integrated body? A sword in the eye. Brains swept under the IEDs. Meth-heads roam rehab halls. Crows startle in heavy light.


Steven Teref is the translator of Ana Ristovic’s Little Zebras: Selected Poems (Zephyr Press, 2015) and Novica Tadic’s Assembly (Host Publications, 2009). His poetry and translations have recently appeared in The Volta, International Poetry Review, and Asymptote, with forthcoming work appearing in Aufgabe, Tarpaulin Sky, and Negative Capability. He teaches writing and literature at Columbia College Chicago.