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from A Whirligig Called America

My life flashed before my avatar photo
and it made me sad, love, to think

that’s who’s going to America if we don’t
start fighting illusion with your bras

and socks flopped over the drying rack.
Every bonfire, Ohio or otherwise,
still roaring with us that age beside.
We decide which to climb into

and drive that day upon waking.
I get chased through a warehouse by goons,
led to an orange door that says “Lenny Bruce’s Grave,”
but then I smell your armpits in the kitchen

and feel safe. Everything we’ve saved
will vaporize upon entry

so let’s give it all away except Ohio.
Let’s hold Ohio close to our chests
and throw stiff arms into the atmosphere.


When I get to America I’m going to be a donkey
tailor, get paid no money, spend it
on pouring my relief
down your gullet, love,
and, fat on my relief, you will sleep
like the late round draft pick we are,
beneath blankets of loll,
our back teeth clicking
as we rock into each other
like an empty can
bobbing boat to loosely tied boat.


I have 5+ years spirit analysis,

America. I’m a fear

fluent blueberry

of concern. Sip

my juices. I bring
an ethic of uncertainty

to you, palpitations

be named. I make good

brick, good wheel.

I’m trained to be silent

as a jet. I’m attracted

to your watercolor blood

pictures. We’re a good

fit a bulldozer in a sink.


America won’t be spaghetti and meatballs
left on the counter when the call comes
divulging the particulars of his imminent divorce.
Nor the lizard letters failing from your mouth.
Nor the blue angels farting ribbons over the city.
Nor wanting to play ball peen to
nightmares between head and chimney.

Fire is leash to our fading
like signals after an antenna’s eye.
Don’t tell me what you’ve seen, traitor,
to the desperate. Don’t act like you aren’t
a mouse to the brass downswing of stars.
All I have are vegetables to fill you,
to push out the gas you
condescend to call presence.
I’m only after brothers and sisters.
If I want a wisp I’ll just tug on it.


Listening to the air
bubble anthem caught
between your teeth—
saw blades bending
infant sobs into
thimbles on a desk
a thousand hallways
down where our sleep-
less nights wave
on hangers hooked
over windowless frames—  


Born and raised in South Euclid, Ohio, Patrick Culliton currently lives in Chicago, where he teaches writing, co-hosts the Talus, Or Scree podcast, and serves as Associate Editor for Conduit. He is the author of two chapbooks, Hornet Homily (Octopus Books) and Horse Ballast (Pavement Saw Press). Recent work has appeared, or is fortcoming, in Columbia Poetry Review, Country Music, CutBank, and elsewhere.