In the bucket, the turtle’s jaw clicks
like undead castanets,
bled-out body nailed to the oak
upside down like Peter.
The boy across the street sports a cap
splattered with bubble gum logos
to hide the gash
where the rusted nail ripped his scalp.
His sister’s silhouette glows
as she runs the scales—backlit
by evening’s bronze piano light,
sheet music splayed
like maps to the coast.
She taught me how to dance, fast,
like running away, pressed
her boyish chest against mine.
The snake the boys slung
around telephone wire
sheds its scales one-by-one,
dangles like a burnt quarter note
above the street where we lie
to the troubled man
in the cop uniform—the one
we tell no one
ever fled this way.
Matthew Ulland’s poems, stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, MiPOesias, Illuminations, The Inquisitive Eater: New School Food, Coe Review, The Meadowland Review, Border Crossing, LIT, caesura, Hanging Loose, The Rusty Nail, and other journals. He is the author of the chapbook, The Sound in the Corn, and of the novel, The Broken World.