here’s stephen tully dierks who emerged on the message board 
with his cow lick and his blue eyes and his thirty page pdf

in every interview in the early ’tens two or sometimes three author photos 
tumblr aesthetic, minimal variation, a kitchen with a microwave 

postcards taped to the cupboards. they knew how to sell poetry
and that selling died with them, or a version of it did

and it was all probably going to die anyway. felled by Instagram
or TikTok or poets petting poets who didn’t want to be pet

publishing a document that everyone wants to be in even if it looks bad
glad I never wrote that angry essay from my messy vantage. my vice

is wondering how it can be better when I am just outside
my vice is telling the car who ran me over how bad that was

but to pull your wheels over a pedestrian is not such a bad thing
what’s good or bad is not for me to decide. from my vantage 

I am only a squashed little ant. I am only spinning on the wheel
of someone who has somewhere to go. for some poetry is vice

it is dangerous, it is God. oh and these men who are poets can sadly be bad
who am I to shout that with my mouth split on the asphalt

aside from the crayon I’d ground into the speakers
the only thing on TV was Woody Woodpecker

or at least that was all I could remember, the bird popping 
his head out of the trees and laughing at whoever 

wanted him dead. I guess I wanted more of that bird 
wanted to be in the trees, wanted his defiance 

my brain rotted by a three-colour cartoon and a limited
orchestra. my brain and the sounds in the house 

that were not quite music. that were limited, the laughter,
wanting the bird dead. we moved from that house

to another and another and another still, retreating finally
to a place where the birds made that sound themselves

high up knocking on the rotten wood. we were close 
in. we were living in a wood house they did not knock on.

the TV I last saw in a basement regularly flooded by rain
I would turn it on and let it speak in soft tones. I played

on the tiles. I let the sounds tell me what was and was 
not there. I tried to remember that they were far away


last night it was too warm for January and we’ve already cranked
all the baseboards and it’s too late in the season to be on our knees

teasing them back and forth with every change so we cracked the window
heard the birds chirp with the first light after a night of turning

now I feel slow and pensive like grey Indy in the photo my dad sent an hour ago
with the subject line FINAL PARTING and Fawn says oh no Paul that’s too dark

though I have just listened to Elizabeth explain the illness in great detail
the diarrhea on the stairs and on their balcony and before the elevators

some rupture or blockage—but not a tear—experienced in the two weeks
they kennelled him as they prepared to move home, how he ran back

to the kennellers to say one final goodbye, remembered he once as a puppy escaped
at the pound and the other dogs just watched him run

which never happened, so impressed they called him Houdini said some dogs
are just liked by other dogs, no one knows why 

seemed to carry this until Saskatoon, no one knows what happened in the belly 
of the plane or maybe it was a calcification slow and natural 

being in the city or living with my parents or growing older, and faster 
as all dogs do, but he grew suspicious, hated air balloons

and mailmen, both newly abundant, and never seen before—now he’s dead 
remember how he used to climb up an ex when we were dating

as she crouched to pet him, her and no one else, perhaps he just wanted 
to get a little higher and saw an opportunity, no one could explain 

how he happened in our yard or why my parents felt so compelled to go back
and bring him home, just as I can’t tell you how I knew today 

he was the little brown bird caught beyond the automatic doors
running in circles through the store