Cortney Bledsoe

Let’s Clarify

When I got tired of the complaining,I put on my widest shirt, the pants
that look like clouds if sadness could
float, and went out to the highway
to become a billboard. I walked close
to mud puddles, cars with open
windows and lots of trash. A small
cat smacked on my ear. A half-
eaten brocade crumbled onto my
shoulder and muttered commentary
on the architecture we passed. Everything
that stuck became my praise. I climbed
up the highest hill I could find
and spread my arms wide to wait
for inspiration. I acquired quite
a collection of vintage cans and bottles,
several repurposed children, the color
yellow disguised as a very happy
orange. Below, traffic began to give up
on its aspirations to start a band. Grocery
store employees wandered the hills,
calling for stray carts. Their voices,
the music of mid-afternoon.

Dirge on Wind Chimes with Questionable Accompaniment

Poetry is like riding a bike: most
of us don’t need special pants to do
it. It might even help if you haven’t
brushed your hair. Socks must always
be changed, though.
                    63% of us
have had bugs and probably mice
in our homes, which is another
way of saying none of us is alone
but most of us would like to be
at some point.
                    It’s ok.
Go back and re-read that as many times
as you need to. Eventually, your eyes
will cross or you’ll take a nap at
your desk. Either of these are acceptable
ways of staying alive.
                    On the way
home, a young girl fell with her bike
into the road. I was ready to shoulder
block a car to save her, but I’m typing
this on a computer probably made
by slaves.
                    We all feel
bad about that. Some of us wrote
poems. It doesn’t help. There’s a way
of seeing the world as it is, rather than
as we’d like. It doesn’t help.

Highway 284

Old truck bodies exploded
in the soybeans. Dirt tracks
sizzling. So many dogs that
aren’t sleeping. Beside
the cemetery we used to pretend
wasn’t just old rocks and grass
over the long dead—and we
weren’t just eying the door but
afraid to bolt—a peach orchard
whose owner might shoot you,
the ground littered with rotting
fruit. Bowlegged boys they say
will grow out of it. Girls already
learning to keep quiet. There
is never-ending war, here. Weeds
have just as much right to the soil.
The roads arc long and strange,
following some dead rich man’s
land. Trailers creep into the fields.
The sky, alive with dragonflies,
feasting on mosquitoes. Your
leg will husk over in an afternoon.

CL Bledsoe’s latest poetry collection is Trashcans in Love. His latest short story collection is The Shower Fixture Played the Blues. His latest novel is The Funny Thing About… Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter and blogs, with Michael Gushue, at