Chris Siteman

Fact Pattern #2



You’ve been a tinker in a tinker’s shop—
Where under circles of light your hands fit
each gear & screw like a lover daydreams

on their lover’s golden-warm skin— Staring
out windows you trace electric circles
until you turn days all the way back:

you, a mud-kneed-&-elbowed child, once more
on your stomach at sunset, looking out
over saw grass where it bites silhouettes

against molten orange-red-violet—
Thin & jagged line where earth & sky
almost leap to fly into forever.


You daydream, then find the mechanical
monkey chatters, clashes cymbals & laughs,
and the watch which refused to keep time ticks.

This way things work for you end on end,
and while you work you grow sweet in work
as if work’s sweetness will last & last—


One afternoon you look out the window,
notice its gray frame grown crooked with wind—
Glass turned water, then ice, in corners cracked.

There spins a spider by a slipping pane;
seeing it trace autumn’s air with silk you
decide to walk away, eat earth, breathe skies—

You put solitude’s tinkering aside;
walk off the stoop & into the field,
leaving behind doors & windows wide—


You wander lost out of woods, slip up
monastery steps seeking a meal,
a dry place to sleep— When the door opens

it’s you who meets you there: you’re wearing rough
brown robes, sandals, piety’s simple smile—
You’ve let your beard grow, shaved your head to show

your skull-shaped nature, your true reflection—
When you invite yourself inside to warm
by the kitchen fire, you walk far behind

yourself as though you’re falling down a hole
in dirt to meet the dead. There’s golden
light at the bottom, & the sweet smell—


You perch a stool stoking orange-red
coals. There’s no one else. Just you, yourself
and you— You speak & other voices bark

cannon reports inside your head— Pure bass
echoes around valley walls, searching to
sound origins— Their own prime numbers—


You put your hands over your mouth to stop
the song of life & death, the litany
of names— Against stone you stagger, grab

the hearth-shelf to brace yourself— Back arched, tilt
head, open throat, & valkyric screech
and howl the ceiling at stars

until you feel bones & flesh might fly
apart, until the song’s burned
a hot blade onto your lungs & spine—


When you wake you gather brushes & paints,
strap canvasses to cart, set out
for the river to catch rising sun—

You make your way beyond sleepy brick
buildings, pass brownstones, cross wrought iron
footbridges, slip down a bank by bushes

where land juts beyond other shores,
and there set up your easel— You wait
for sun to arrive— As you stare across

rippling water, catch glimpses of lights,
fading city night. East brightens,
an eggshell blue razor of day appears—


Blue edge of everything, the whole
world’s a wild eye staring into sun—
Pupil blackness stretches to distant clusters

synapse-like constellations. Blue turns red—
You carry portents for us all,
colors true to a phoenix rising

from ground— Sets the whole sky ablaze—
Water points morning’s fiery finger
sets your canvass, too, ablaze—


You sit stunned, where sky sets water afire
transposed on canvass, still twitching brush
hand, dizziness overwhelms—

Between skull & scalp creeps a crushing
hand, reaching right into your core—
You topple onto grass—


Your head in her lap you stare up through
the halo of sun she wears behind her hair
falling over her face & yours— This, now,

swells inside you, her palm to your
forehead she whispers words fly away
and leave you feeling you cannot hear.

Long & sweet exhalations, a choir,
you rise from ground, take each other’s
hands as you walk the riverbank.


You watch a low-swooping gull, feel
in your bones this is the one
who can set you free from fruitless pain.

And she’s that woman you think she is.
Like a dreamer who asks to have their dream,
your fruitless pain leaves you through fire—

Everything in you soft & naïve—
She burns all of it away for love.
The store of your desires— You burn away.


She straps you to a kitchen chair,
and you want her to strap you to the chair—
She whispers fire into your ear, runs

her hand up thigh to your throbbing
heart’s pounding drums in ears
and eyes— You, out of your cage—

She wiles with her eyes, smirks her
smiles, draws back her fist, punches your
chest— Stills your beating-betrayer.


You’re the one who retreats to the hilltop,
who decides enough bullshit’s enough,
who picks up notebook & pen, then leaves—

Atop the hill you pile stones, make a bed—
Here pile stones to make a chair, there lay
them flat, a place to kneel & pray—

Kneeling under sky you learn to listen
to names of things, quiet your
breathing until you almost no longer

know you exist— It’s only then they come,
when you learn to sit still & write songs
to the sky & the people it shelters.


Whole flocks, birds perch & shit on your shoulders,
on your head, in branches, on rocks, waiting
for your scrap scribbled notes—

You tie one tight to each of their legs—
One at a time they fly off alone,
taking songs to sky, sestinas, sonnets—


You think on those you left in the valley,
imagine them huddled for warmth at night
under a gem-specked, indifferent, dome—

On wind you hear their cries as they’re born—
When they’re dying, too, they cry out. You smell
their salt laughter, taste their salt tears,

as the sky purples— You write
the words: Love, Forgive, Nothingness, tie them
to a skylark’s leg, smile & send it off—

        return to poetry

Chris Siteman lives in Brookline, MA. He holds an MFA from Emerson College and a JD from Suffolk University Law School. His chapbook, PART X of ME, is forthcoming from Pen & Anvil Press (Boston, MA). And he has poems forthcoming, or that have most recently appeared, in New England Review of Books, Ellipsis Literature & Art, Boxcar Poetry Review, Stoneboat and The Hawai‘i Review.