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Frank Sterncrest Jan 2014
My family eats dinner underwater.
We bounce between the seats of our chairs
and the bottom of the table,
we pass the stuffing
as it floats off the plate,
and no one seems to blink.
My parents just talk about how safe
it is, here,
below the surface.
No gay fiances
or athiests
or postmodernists
or liberal Christians.
I am the only one with an oxygen tank.
“I have never owned a tent that kept the rain out.”

My family camps with gear from the 80s.
We cook in bare aluminum
and eat with volatile plastics,
a crusty dining cloth pinned
to the warped picnic bench.
My feet and head push
through the tent wall
and into the rain fly.
I always wake up wet.
“I have never owned a bed that was long enough.”

In house 1 and 2,
my feet hang off the end
of the bed, circulation halted
at the ankles
by the wooden frame.
In dorm 1 and 2,
I lie diagonally on the bed,
my shoulder hitting the wall.
In dorm 3,
My feet are pressed
flat against the wardrobe.
I fall asleep not knowing
who I wake up for.
“I have never loved anyone I didn't have to.”
Frank Sterncrest Oct 2013
'1. my father told me that cedar branches thrown in the campfire crackle like strips of bacon on the griddle. as the eldest son in a farm family of nine, he made the Sun bacon every day until he was eighteen.

2. my father told me that his father said he is from the only place in the country that doesn't have an accent, and in the same breath, called that place “Warshington.”

3. no one told me that bridges burn from one end like a cigarette.

4. no one told me that smoking gets old. no one told me that one day you crawl out of your tent and throw the crumpled pack of smokes you slept on into a campfire. no one told me that every cedar tree talks to you, voice crackling in the falling ash, saying 'he is home; he has returned to the cedar and the fern,' and then swears that it doesn't have an accent.

5. my father told me that we all return to cinders. i was too busy burning from one end to listen.
Frank Sterncrest Aug 2013
(a rondeau)*

when it was new, this farm shone
with the tractor’s polished chrome
the barn’s crisp trim
the silo’s glinting rim
and the field’s glowing loam

it became a place for weeds to comb
through rotting cars as if sown;
these rusting crops never creased his skin
when it was new

now, the gate creaks with his bones
the fence posts lean and groan
with his warped, hobbling limb
familiarity cannot sate him
he never felt as alone
when it was new
Frank Sterncrest Jun 2013

she is lithe and serene
as the staid air melts, frantic.
as she befriends a sable fiend
she is lithe and opaline.
for completion, they convene
and together study the bleak, pedantic.
she is lithe and agleam
as the staid air melts, prismatic.
Frank Sterncrest Mar 2013
your laughter is interrupted
and the punch line crumbles onto your lap.

as you answer your phone
          the chair hardens
                    to skeletal.
          every corner in your bones
          against every edge of wood.

as the earpiece exhales
          the grey seeps in from the dusty dome
          and a wheeze of cloudy cold
          floats, foggy, over the sill
          and freezes firm your loose lips
          before a smile can stretch them.

you rise
          and the door evaporates
          at your touch
                    a droplet
                    to your violent,
          the croaking in your ear
                    but ‘fine’
          traps your tongue
          under stacks of pennies.
          your heart
          beats fast enough for two

you stand on frail, fractured leaves
          and try to cram crutches
          and buttresses
          through a receiver,
          but your fumbling fingers
          won’t speak.
          your neck buckles
          and bends
          under the heavy phone

back inside
teetering on your bony seat
you try to sit on your hands
          scoops of your scattered words
                    ‘my leaving
                    was the healthiest thing
                    that has ever happened to her–’
          foreign and
Frank Sterncrest Mar 2013
poets often write about running
     through prairies
as if it is romantic.

they don’t know the itch
     the ***** of thick grass
     the **** of goldenrod
     the sting of thistle.
they haven’t hoisted one moist rubber-clad leg
over the other
again and
again and
waterproof yet sweating
     just to move ten feet.
they haven’t picked seeds from sticky skin
as the fields give way to marsh
     grass to cattails
     reeds to rushes.
they haven’t bobbed
and balanced
     up and
     down and
on floating mats
of dead, sewn stalks
     walking on water
     a minefield of bog slime.

i haven’t stopped watching my steps
since i got that job
and i think i’m due for a misstep.
i’m looking to stop scratching
to stop picking
to stop bobbing.
i’m looking for a darling weak spot
     strong enough to swallow me
in this swamp.
i would bushwhack to her
     through the pricking
     the prodding
     and the stinging
put the wrong foot forward
plunge through the mat
and let her pour over the tops of my waders
and sink me
     deeper and
     deeper and
too deep.
i would drown in her.
Frank Sterncrest Jan 2013
his hands are gripped tightly around the mallet
ripped koozie foam under his white fingernails


he is pounding flat the knots in the tree
until his tender grain sighs bitter bubbles


*grow straight, **** it. stand tall.
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