The Billings Outpost

Tolton finishes on top in poetry slam here

Editor’s Note: This poem by Pete Tolton was the winning entry in the finals of the third annual Billings Grand Slam, a poetry slam held last month at Venture Theatre. Mr. Tolton and Anna Paige were finalists in the competition.

No Sirens - By Pete Tolton

We fired up the chainsaw last month

Blades rotate fast enough

To make a slip and fall matter

Lost my partner in crime

No sirens, nothing but fresh ruts 


Now I set the table for one

Buckets under the drips

Light bulbs need replacing

Paths in the hardwoods from back and forth pacing

Tattered collars and cuffs 

Moths slowly defacing


Clutch a ragged afghan

My fingers and toes poke through

It’s been the same setting

On the radio dial 

The same coffee water

Twice brewed grounds

Stuck in my teeth

I tongue my canines, anticipating

The night when I’m at one with the night

Keep quiet, I chew

Keep quiet


I roll darkness’s grit against the roof of my mouth

The taste of soot and tar and

Scab and burn and mold

And heartless hole

And bones and urn

This is the relative safety of commiseration

Inward and inward I strike my path

Through the tunnels of my innards

And through the plaster and lath


It makes me wonder

What kept bits of bone

Out of the mortar?

What kept blood out of the bricks

When those homesteaders built it?


I am, ever slowly, sinking I’m thinking

A quicksand house underneath and now around me

I whisper aloud,

If there weren’t bones and blood

In here before

There sure as hell are now.


My teeth at one with the porcelain fixtures

Flesh stretches, covering wallpaper

Spine fuses with the crippled frame

That support beam used to be L3-L4

I am the place where we were

And I’ve locked the doors


We’ve all heard that

Home is where the heart is

Goddamn it I cannot differ

I get stiffer and stiffer and stiffer

Now I wear these gable shingles

Held askew like jaunty cap

Drooping off the side of my brow

If there weren’t bones and blood

In there before

There sure as hell are now.


If there weren’t bones and blood

In here before

There sure as hell are now.


Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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