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Field Guide to the Spectral Wilderness

When you arrive, it must be morning. The light must blue over triangles of treeline. There must be fields of corn and there must be coroners mistaking elbow joints for knee bones. There must be a trail through the woods at Possum Hollow and there must be the skull of a possum still lodged inside the trunk of a tree. There must be a tree. There must be the slightest hint of danger. There must be corners neatly tucked. There must be red the color of a puppy’s tongue there must be pleasure whether strapped or stolen and there must be ice there must always always always always be ice. There must be a way to feel our way toward the water and light from this darkness. There must be a fire. There must be a little candle thing that makes the bells go round. There must be a girl, there has always been a girl. There must be a boy, there has always been a boy. There must be a sharps container. There has never been a man but there must now be a man, not because one is needed but because one isn’t. There must be a ghost. They must be hungry. There must be a tiny meal and then there must be the best kind of love. There must be pine needles. There must be papercuts. A punchline. A burial. There must be a way to fall asleep beside the dead coyote and not wake up wearing its fur. There must be a horseman. There must be someone around here who remembers the voice of the girl. It isn’t me but it must be me. There must be daylight. There must be a yellow house. There must be a window. A ladder. A compass. We must have new names. There must be a boy and a girl and we must have new names. There must be a boy and there must be a girl. There must be. There must be. There must be someone looking for us by now. They must wonder where we are.


Boy Clit

(it’s a relief) (it’s supposed to be scary)
(the pleasure digit) (erupts the roundness)
(a like like like like bloodswell) (a tomato)
(a stick) (a mule) (something tender too)
(what did I know) (what did I work for)
(a blurry red) (of something familiar)
(the whole world is round) (except for)
(well nothing too scary now) (okay then)

(it relieves the roundness) (not too scary)
(pointing toward) (hard as a cherry tomato)
(color and light in the morning) (a tunnel)
(if you don’t know who the mule is) (well)
(might be you) (digits pointing) (a reward)
(now something growing) (something small)
(a grasping) (dark) (a reward in two hands)
(back to the good part) (hands) (a tomato)

(lanterns lit) (a boy) (never ever ever a man)
(carnitas) (tender) (poised fork) (red cross)
(something about too much hunger) (howling)
(wasn’t I good enough) (boy now) (you were
a good girl too now) (sorry) (I’m better now)
(better like this) (a stick) (maybe the mule)
(maybe a man) (maybe painful) (palpitation)
(now how to) (how to what) (nothing scary)

(all my dreams are afraid of men) (“stay soft”)
(suspended in sesame oil) (quick like a dart)
(no regrets) (please stop asking me about regret)
(ambiguous loss) (boyhood under occupation)
(am I crying) (really) (juicy red tomato tears) 
(gentle) (a woman pushing a cart in the meat
aisle) (fluorescent lights) (a broken window)
(boot on a hanging plant) (ground beef) (red)  


Oliver Bendorf is the author of The Spectral Wilderness, selected by Mark Doty for the Wick Poetry Prize and named one of Entropy’s Best Poetry Books of 2014. He recently received the Doug Fir Fiction Award, judged by Lidia Yuknavitch, and his writing and comics have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Feminist Wire, The Rumpus, Sycamore Review, Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetics, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Iowa, he currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he held the Renk Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in Poetry and now teaches cartooning and writing.