Poetry: Cortney Bledsoe

Cortney Bledsoe

Bees duck into a crack at the base

of the stairs, one and then another

in formation like quiet schoolchildren.

My daughter is afraid they’ll like


her too much. I want to say it’s a good

problem to have, but she won’t get

it. So I stand between her and them

until the man can come and usher


them to a new home. We’re walking

to the mailroom so we can get

the book I ordered for her with money

I don’t have. Don’t waste your life


on stories, I want to say. “I’m ten,”

she says when I say anything I think

is profound. I don’t mean reading.


I don’t mean the way the leaves

are shoved aside by the breath

of the world above us. All I mean is

that life is for living. That’s something


I never did until she was born

and I decided I liked her too much

to ever run away again.



Mother, Father, Son, Daughter

The devil’s biggest problems are lack

of dopamine. Nose-blindness. Not

existing. One expects time to pass,

some progression to be revealed,

not this dog-trying-to-stand-in-a-

pickup thing we’ve got going on.

First, there was the mother. Then,

the father, trying to erase the memory

of the light from her eyes, soothing

fingertips on fevered brow. Finally,

the son who forgot his keys and had

to run back home for them. It probably

all has to do with prisms because I

was absent that day. There are people

who spell out their pettiness onto signs

and stand outside places to try to

intimidate others. There are people

who walk into schools with automatic

weapons and open fire. There are

people who sit in pews one day a week

and think that’s enough to make them

people. It wasn’t that long ago a person

could be murdered for asking questions.

Even still, questions are met more

often with shame than considerations

of where the answer might come from,

and who. The son – it’s his age, remember –

thinks crystals will save him or maybe

just yelling at the wall until it feels

punched. There’s a fourth age no one

seems to have considered: the daughter.




Some Thoughts on Moonflowers 

Skitterings in the night, like

            bristly feet and dripping teeth.

            I am not butter, I don’t

            care what the pamphlets say.

            You may not fry anything in me.


Magic lacks melatonin, which

is why it hides from the sun.

Ask anyone who knows.

Shadows. Moving lights.

If all the evil could shut

the f**k up that would be

great. I’m trying to die, here.             


My head hurt for days because                      

            I couldn’t afford to keep up

            with my meds. Don’t tell me

            it’s about anything other than



It’s always raining somewhere

            n mi hart. *tap tap*


Maybe the mice are putting on a symphony.

Maybe the moonflowers are going for a walk.

Maybe the dust bunnies are thirsty for blood.


When I go on meds, I can’t see anything

            inside my head, so I have to write

            to have thoughts.


It’s about keeping myself safe because

            the squeaky wheel gets evicted.


On a scale of one to ten tell me how

            Capitalism is treating you today.

            The first two don’t count.


These nights when I’m waiting to be

            recycled, I think about the warmth

            of your body in my arms

and remember there was a time

                        however brief

            I didn’t feel alone.

haha no take backs.    




Doing the Work


My therapist thinks being

polite is the same as faith,                  a habit, worn long enough—

                                                            like a crate-trained soul—I smile.

This is how we patronize

each other, her and me                        and God. If I promise to jump

                                                            at the thunder, He promises

not to burn me from the

ground up. With her, it’s just             cash. She asks             if I have any

friends. I say too many has always

been my problem. That’s not                         

the right word. What I mean              to say is that when I was younger,

                                                            I never woke up alone, but

I never slept, either. Let me

tell you a joke. What does                  a gangster cat say? (In an Edward

                                                            G. Robinson voice) Meow, see,

meow. My daughter and I made

that up together. Maybe you had        to be there. To put it another way,

if I open my mouth, what do you

think will come out? Dirt daubers     

crawling on my tongue, which           is another way of saying writer’s

block, the smell of mud, which

is another way of saying death.

But I paw through the nests,               looking for the sound of my own

voice before I lost the accent,

the mud for my father’s approval.     

When I was a boy, and the sickness   took her, my mother would howl

late into the night, me lying

in the dark, listening to the animal    

that had gotten in, waiting for it         to find me and feed. I’m not trying

to complain. Lots of my friends

had much harder lives than I             

until they died. She asks why             I’m here, and I say I’m buying time.

I’m tired. I’m going to kill myself,

but I can’t today. I have an                

appointment. Give me a decade.        Help me find the strength, somehow 

to last that long. Not that I’m implying

in any way that it would be your       

fault. She nods, and I’m grateful        for her so obviously practiced

sincerity; the last thing I need

is to fling a craving on some             

body. Here is a list of ways I’ve

                                                            tried to die. Water, wind, a bullet’s

kiss, the things of the world

I’ve swallowed. I’ve got so much     

going for me, I can barely stand.        This is why I don’t own a gun.          

Do you drink or do drugs? She asks.

That’s a kind of trust exercise

with the world I’m not prepared         to take, I say. The only thing

I remember about my mother’s smell

is urine. Maybe, if I could’ve

saved her, I could forgive myself       for still being alive. But forgiveness

is a myth; eventually, you just           

forget to be angry. Let’s not talk       

about me anymore. She says,             Okay Here’s an exercise. I want you

to write about your trauma.

When that’s done, I want you            

to run as far away from it as you

                                                            can. And then have a snack or soothe

yourself in some way. I can hear rain

outside as I type this, working on      

its aim. Maybe I’ll order pizza. 


Bio: Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of thirty books, including his newest poetry collection, The Bottle Episode, and his latest novel The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue: https://medium.com/@howtoeven Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

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