/k evans

The Magic Flute

I listen to Mozart’s operetta
like every other Alabama native—
half-expecting a castrated bull
to charge a rodeo clown, who,
sensing danger, lobs himself
and his $200 Bozo shoes
into a barrel, which, in turn,

disallows the crowd’s blood-thirst,
and albeit for me to say such
attitudes don’t come naturally—
generational conquest passed
down like an overbite, and
what do I know, half-asleep
at my desk, sock-feet numb

in the air while I practice
high culture—soup gone cold
on the printer next to a can
of Vienna sausages, which
are neither Viennese nor
proper sausages. Delicious
with crackers and mustard.

All the same, I like to let my heart
learn new rhythms, snake
the cello string into chamber
and artery, the folds of notes
fixating on each blood cell
pulsing through me, then
pulling it taut, and plucking it.

I can feel it like that—a sorrow
so pathetic, it shakes me open
like a gym bag in a dryer,
and out tumbles my drunk twenties,
a decade-long argument followed
by grand, next-morning declarations,
as if slipping on piss in a bar

is the perfect moment to reclaim
a modicum of my Welsh ancestry
—a cold, wet dragon flapping
brick red on a polyester flag.
I know nothing of that land,
but I do think of bull riding
more than most, and with each

movement, I breathe like a
desperate monk in a Hobby Lobby,
then I imagine I am a damn
dragon rising into a thunderhead
with nothing but wings and
house-sized talons. What if,
rather than bolting, the clown

pulls out a Bouie knife and slits
the bull’s throat? Too violent,
probably, besides, I know
why the clown is scared
in the final movement, diving
headlong into a barrel, the
horns probing with each thrust.



Walking must be how our feet bless the earth,
each step falling with the all-knowingness
of a generation—
one foot always seeming to land
slightly behind the other.

Picture a gaggle of us running around a track
chasing a gold medal, only to find out,
that with each stride,
our spiked feet
unlocked a host of angels

lost underground. Let those angels bless us,
while we bless all them toes
tapping down in the delta,
where Skip James
croons about a cyprus grove,

where we find ourselves so far from home,
our feet have to improvise—
feet dancing like an eternal thought,
like a guitar string pulled so tight,
it forgets the note.

Right there. When the angel drops the harmonica.
You can see it better than me.
All that mute bitterness is a blessing
so old we have no choice
but to mistake it for love.


Buying a Foreclosure

is a risk,
especially in Tallahassee,
where termites battle fire ants
for the best-built cathedral award,
which always goes
to the termites. Fire ants
are just assholes.

Anyway, the house
held up through inspection.
A few wires in the attic
need wire nuts.
The drywall cracked
after settling—nothing serious,
except for the family who left it

for the bank to figure out,
and I know it’s selfish,
but when we arrive
at the Realtor’s office,
where polished chrome
gleams like Tom Cruise
in his prime, and we’re initialing ­____,

and signing _________________,
I can’t help my mind
from sneaking down the hall
for a cup of day-old
Styrofoam coffee,
where I ask a geranium
the interest rate for my body.

Can I pay this one off early?
I would never say to a plant.
But I push it. How many people
have moved in and out of
my solar plexus? Is this
how we treat our many selves:
addendums, agreements,

and more paperclips
than Office Depot? I know,
questions ruin everything.
But I can hear my father
yawping from the recliner, hands
megaphoned around his mouth,
What kind of man doesn’t own a Skilsaw?

And the thought carries me
to Lowe’s, where the beeps of forklifts
marry sawdust and light
in a concerto of capitalist
possibilities, and before long
I have two stuffed carts
and a home improvement loan

for a new HVAC I don’t need.
If I squint I can even see
two children running into the screen door
I have yet to install, the walls
primed for something divine,
which means another shade
of violet or blue, and

because I value my well-being
I spend one week a year
for the rest of my life painting rooms
varying blends of beige,
and beyond paying for college
and remodeling a perfectly fine
kitchen, I see a few market crashes.

A war. My mid-life crisis
taking the form of a Mazda Miata:
leather bucket seats
and yellow trim,
followed by the eventual
breakdown of my ego,
who has always felt cornered

by some past mistake,
who flares up like a gall bladder
after a bucket of fried chicken,
buttered biscuits, a mess of greens
and zipper peas piled in pots
at the center of the table,
where I stare, fork at the ready.


Kerry James Evans is the recipient of a 2015 NEA Fellowship and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His poems have appeared in Agni, New England Review, Ploughshares, and many other journals. He is the author of Bangalore (Copper Canyon), and he currently works in St. Louis, Missouri.