Three Poems By Evan Vandermeer

“The Island”
	(After Chase Twitchell’s “Road Tar”)

As a boy, I once caught a snake 
in the backyard and discovered, to my horror, 
that their bellies open up in a slit to shit. 
You wouldn’t believe how 
that small creature 
filled my hands with its excrement, 
which I dropped with the snake
like so much coiled play-doh, before running
to my father. Later, he told me about
a childhood bully who lived down the street
from him, and how this bully enjoyed 
catching garter snakes, which he’d pin down, 
head and tail, with stones, 
and fetching gasoline from the garage 
he’d douse them, strike a match, and kick off the stones 
to watch it, the snake, take off like a ribbon
furied by wind. This was something he did,
on weekends, maybe, and often, so long
as he had an audience, and maybe even that 
didn’t matter. Meanwhile, my father avoided him,
but he admitted to having once pulled a chair
out from under a classmate, who fell,
like I fell, into the sharp underbrush on that hot
summer day so long ago, when a friend’s family
brought me with them to the lake,
where he and his little sister and I paddled out
to an offshore island. It was wild and uncultivated
except for a few short stretches of overgrown
paths, which we split up and exhausted, quickly, 
and reconvening in the middle agreed that the island, 
indeed, was small. But when it came time to leave 
and the three of us sat in the car, waiting 
for their mom, who’d left something behind 
in the steaming sand,
this friend of mine pulled down his trunks
and made his sister kiss him there.
I let the phone ring, from then on,
and didn’t see him again, not until 
our rec league soccer teams faced off 
a year later, when after the game 
our teams lined up to shake hands and he chose,
instead, to punch me in the mouth, and so raised
the thunder of a father.

Editor's Note: Here's a link to Chase Twitchell’s “Road Tar”.


The operative word is laden, these eyes
mine especially
in the morning hush

and at dusk with their patchy fortitude,
with the winterberries

pinned up like paint 
splashed into harsh attendance 
against the white.

I have only ever been a young man
at best

supine and star-like along the floor,
swollen with dumb analysis

where each rumble’s an epoch. Once again, 
I do not know what to say, how to say,

but stare long enough at the flock overhead
and its barbed formation will
turn into that rosy strip and vanish, a point

not gone maybe but far—
oh Lord, take this fear from me.

In the hot pressure of summer,
of slow but perceptible growth
of vine, it was rare
that we ever searched for the tennis balls
hammered into those woods, 
the borderland 
against left field that marked, in its awesome difference, that side’s 
domain of the irretrievable. In time,
we stopped looking altogether, brought back-ups instead, 
knowing autumn would reduce that green riot, 
leaf by trembling leaf, to 
withering groundstuff, an earthy mutedness 
returning those pale little suns, tributes
ripe for harvesting
to replenish our stores. 

We never found them, even after November
chilled the neighborhood into its hearth,
stripped those woods so fully, 
so carefully, as almost to humiliate, 
leaving nothing below 
its naked boughs but that silent bed, sacreligious
in its dim uniformity, its refusal to yield 
the tokens of our past, somehow gone
and left undiscussed 
in the mirrored speechlessness of winter.

Evan Vandermeer is an emerging writer with published poems in Analecta and Kingfisher, and he has a haiku in the forthcoming issue of Modern Haiku. He is a graduate student in the MA English program at Indiana University South Bend, where he lives with his fiancé, Megan, and their two pet bunnies, Roosevelt and Pantalaimon.

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