CL Bledsoe


I always thought paisley was a foreign
cuisine that tasted like sunset over 
a city I’d never see. I was wrong
about that but not the affordability
of plane tickets. An imperfect education
punctuated by bouts of seclusion
and drug use. I was wrong to think
everything could be swallowed if you
keep your head tilted up. When the silence
comes, nobody checks its ID before
letting it in. We sit and we wait and we
try not to move too much. It’s so easy
to break things by nudging them out
of place, without even meaning to. It’s so 
easy to let the ruin know your name. 
I thought I’d surrounded my heart 
in wood, but you trained termites just 
to show me. Now, everything gets in
and I’ve gone to bed from the chill. 
I’ve learned so much from you. Argyle 
isn’t a color. Up isn’t a direction on 
a street map. All the people I thought
were a bad time were, no matter how
much you defended their music choices. 
You cried once, early on, saying I’d
never love you as much as you loved me.
I guess I proved you wrong.

Poem with Tiger Lilies and Dust Jackets

The tiger lilies on the side of the road
have died back in the heat, so I’m not
sure why I’m still coming to work, except
that it’s where I keep my oatmeal. I don’t
know what to do for breakfast, otherwise,
except hit the drive through and feel sick
and useless all day. Let me tell you what’s 
wrong with your dust jacket pics. You don’t 
know shit about life. That’s the whole point
of being a poet. The knowing smile, the smug
condescension. Show yourself confused 
at a four-way stop, and I’ll buy your book.
Show yourself lost and stupid when 
they leave your selfish ass, and I’ll applaud
when you smile sheepishly and pause 
at the coffee shop. You can’t win poetry,
no matter how many awards you throw
at it. Your teacher or someone just like him
is judging the thing. You’re not fooling
anyone but yourself. I smile in mine, but 
I’m embarrassed by my teeth. I can’t afford 
to get them fixed. If you don’t know 
that’s poetry, I can’t help you. 


I saw my landlord sitting on the curb,
crying. All around him, people were
toting their belongings to the backs
of pickup trucks, piling them into
the street where traffic already honked
around them. “No one cries for me,”
he said, his nose big and red, his eyes
dead. I tried to be cautious around
him ever since he caught me trying
to fit into a bird’s nest in a tree. He 
stood under me and asked what I
was doing. I said I just wanted to
know what it felt like to be an egg.
“I’m not liable,” he said and shook
the tree. I broke my collarbone when
I fell. He made me pay for the concrete
that was already cracked, even though
I didn’t fall on it. I’m pretty sure it was 
his boot that ruined my nose, but he 
wouldn’t admit it. “What happened?” 
I asked. “I have feelings,” he said. I 
didn’t believe him. “To them,” I said, 
pointing. He shrugged. He was sitting 
right in the way of several of them, 
sobbing loudly. I decided that if anyone 
came by carrying a piano, I’d trip them 
right over his head. I tried to pass him, 
but he shifted so I had to step around. 
“No walking on the grass,” he said. 
“Then move,” I said. That’s the kind 
of thing that gets your rent raised, but 
I was tired from working two jobs that 
day, just to afford living there. “You’re 
just like them,” he said. “You don’t care 
about who I am inside.” I had no choice 
but to stand and watch him. It’s the kind 
of thing that happens when you’ve made 
the regrettable decision not to be born rich. 
Nobody’s fault but my own. “No one
cries for me,” he said again. “You’ve made
plenty of us cry,” I said. “Which is close
to the same thing.” That satisfied him enough.
He wandered away. I went inside to the mice
and noise. Another wasted day. Another
lost night. 

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in LoveGrief Bacon, and his newest, Driving Around, Looking in Other People’s Windows, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and the forthcoming The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue located here: His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

Flights. Issue Two, September 2021