Tony Mancus

Five Poems

Volume 14:2, Spring 2013


The captain versus a pinhole in the sky. The captain versus a ship in a bottle and its unlikely creaking. The captain versus his hometown’s silhouette. The captain versus the sword at his side, his lover’s slow eyes. The captain versus a whale: something at least laterally familiar. The captain versus a cloud of breath. The captain versus flatlands and a far interior. The captain versus a cattleprod of pearls, their overwhelmed and singing shells lost with all the bones at the bottom of the ocean. The captain versus somewhere on a rolled-up map. The captain versus another captain with a bigger hat and feathers. The captain versus a seaful of juniper, one hand dragged across the water. The captain versus a gaggle of geese: hungry and disinterested, they waggle around like beggars. The captain versus the cot where he sleeps tight and neat. The captain versus a stick-frame house he plundered. The captain versus the crow’s nest: his legs steady but not a spyglass in sight. The captain versus a wine colored bladder, his loosening teeth and gold caps, nothing to eat. The captain versus scurvy at first, his legacy later. The captain versus his shipmates, arms in all his memories. The captain versus his coursing blood in the water. The captain versus his only dear, dear wish washed ashore in a land where no one understands his capable letters.




In bettering ourselves, we get to call names out
like for bingo on some unnumbered Tuesday
with all the oldsters gathered in the basement
and lining the halls. Their teeth loose in their heads,
their heads not entirely loose of thought. The next ball
to be called could be the one. I am shouting at the cage,
its round edges and easy turn. I am spilling coffee
on the counter, into the pews of the church above us
where people take their names up with god. I am sipping
the green spurt of spring as snow comes back from the windows
into our hair and eyes. It had gone away for a while
to guess at what point it could possibly make
with so much piling up. Weighty little balls roll out
from the metal cage. B1 with the world, Ha!

I am shouting. Heads all turn down and change
jingles. The list of letters gets broken
off with coughing. The weight of the world is something
that falls continually, something that never
stops. Sit right here with my love, I am shouting
at the empty pews above us. Be still. The coffee rattles
in its Styrofoam cup with my loose teeth in the bottom,
chewing away. My relatives swear their allegiances respectfully
to sleep and in my country, which is a room, which is full
of people down on their luck, competing to see who draws
their last breath the easiest; someone calls out
a list of letters and numbers. And there’s always one
here among us who eventually shouts out that they’ve won.




Train the field to confess and what you get is a blank gesture.
No more corning the hip of the forest,
or meal in my mind mama.

Query the veil if you want to stiffen your curtain;
let the veterinarian close all the animal wounds we harvest.
I’m no television set in season or molt, no reason for alarming bells.

Take the feathers from the pillow with a shotgun
and silence the mouth there owing what debt it wrests
from the page of midcentury fearglut stopped up in the soma.

And the golden pond dumping its water all into the yards
of neighboring townsfolk forgets itself in this light, their forged crests,
simple school releases, their problems with how a city blanks them repeatedly.

Train the yards to carve up their cars.
A bolt on the engine, a block to balance some body atop,
what you can hear shouted over distance moving its whistle and time

and coal and trash held up at the x with different terrain crossed over
by sets and sets of wheelsrunting. Turn over the dirt – crops
and worms set to growing, their hearts hard to tell apart.

Hard to follow this land marking all the cottony things we sleepwalk
with. Currents unknown to our think/thunking along some roadwork. Stop
here, it’s the neatest part of your shadow – split just like the line on a scalp

but the ground it gathers in, it moves over and through
scraped into well-shapes and fluid. We know when
we arrive somewhere mainly through what’s beneath us

and that door, Monty, the prize behind it is always
better than the one we got – two pockets full of lint,
one used sock.



Noah Chiles, "the queen of content," 2012, pen and ink.

Noah Chiles, “the queen of content,” 2012, pen and ink.


Out of nothing comes more
nothing. The day is long

and lean. On the dance floor a pile of beards
convince the men to get married. One has lost

the hat that tells him how to behave
in the dark, while another attends

grammar school with forceps.
He learns the verb ‘to grab’ without

screaming. His body
doesn’t know how to separate

his heavy arms from the telephone,
or the child, sleeping

that screams inside him.
Getting up from his coma-bed,

the man thinks sparrows
have come to turn down the sheets.

The crumbs of his last meal might be
enough. An offering. His gooseflesh

pale in the buzzing light, his body still.




you flounce and dribble the tow lines and oggle all pretty human bodies as they lump and flutter. past you is a private living among ample sounds even if no one else can keep their homes to themselves while you sleep.

total the zero of trains and rescue. add the bastions up by the number of letters in their florally decorated ties. the electability of sour-facing ad campaigns.

witching is done with stitches along the bedsheets, an outline in pure sweat and threadline of the body when there are no dimes scraped along the concrete.

dragging lines, the morning welted, difficult.

salting only the edges, ground smooth to their beginnings.

if there were a complete hour, it would contain some kind whistles prompting us all on to better form and stations.

burns collected and hefted into a together shape, disappearing as the sound we want to know goes on away.



“The Captain Versus” reprinted from Cue, with permission of the author.

Tony Mancus is the author of three chapbooks: Diplomancy (Horseless Press, 2013), Bye Land (Greying Ghost, 2012), and Bye Sea (Tree Light Books, 2012). He is co-founder of Flying Guillotine Press. He and his wife Shannon live in Rosslyn, VA.