for Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
I’m sorry no one told you
you do not have to wake
in tatters, pulling bits of window
from your eye. Curse every man
who doesn’t know what it takes
to be tender, to surrender
the whip and open the fist
to favor the dexterous brush
of horsehair across corkboard.
Those old stables are empty
now, no boys’
boots to tongue-polish, nothing to muck
except memory. Where your father cracked
the riding crop over
your scalp, you try to staunch
the bleeding with lace
shreds from your mother’s dress. Booze won’t do it,
cadmium or crucifixion
won’t wring the want from your skin.
There’s still the farrier’s hammer
in your father’s hand, the impasto
of blood, the tint
of bone, your mouth torn into a howl.
How hard it is to turn from cruelty.
Brian Czyzyk is a poet from Northern Michigan. He has work published in or forthcoming from The Cincinnati Review, The Journal, Colorado Review and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from Purdue University.