177.1: Jamison Crabtree:: to prevent pain, & this is where we bite the bullet where the bullet takes our teeth and we ask for the cartridge as a memento 177

“Tell me to stay and let me hate you, tell me to leave and let me love you.” This line conceals a novel’s worth of narrative, and a line is all you’ll get here. Jamison Crabtree’s poems subvert our desire for story. Like any good love affair, they give us elaborate backstories and complexity of feeling within a couple brief meetings. Then, these sentences cut us off abruptly and leave us wanting more. The lines in Crabtree’s poems are embedded with micro-narratives that force a reader to lean closer, to tune their ear to the music and be moved. Just as the speaker of the second of these pieces must leave, so, too the story must leave us behind. The residue of feeling, of yearning for more, of empty-pit stomach—that visceral whatever is the stuff of these poems, the tiny wild that Crabtree captures and immediately lets loose. But we wouldn’t rather read a novel than experience these brief moments of emotion. To paraphrase what Crabtree writes himself: If ever a story appeared, it would be no comfort. S. Whitney Holmes

to prevent pain,


Cause pain. Be first, be fast. Oh yes—at last a way to strip the desperate from the landscape; a way to put yourself back into it. To kiss me would be cruel. So kiss me and wake to the mice that startle the brush; to someone who kneels down to touch your lips with a finger; then with their own faint mouth. But there were not hips and skin, there was not a woman—there was a tree and the tree was tressed, knotted with stars. Tonight, the squirrels are in the cities and you are the only guest in the house of the wind. There will never be a she to slender the constellations from the branches; no fingertips rough enough to shove them back into the sky. And so you want to die but if you want to die, you won’t. But you will you will you will calls out the owl. Calls out the owl to the tiny wild.




this is where we bite the bullet where the bullet takes our teeth and we ask for the cartridge as a memento


Were the woods to cry out, what vicious wild would scatter? Keep what you can, keep it inside and keep it quiet. The forest shushes itself at the frailest breeze and ends each year naked, with stillness in its sheets. If ever a you appeared, you would be no comfort.

Not with the squirrel bones braided through your red hair, not with the grass in your teeth or the blood on your fur—to stay safe, stay still or play dead.

If you move, move loud, move now. If we were the wild we could leave together. Hop the train before it reaches the trestle; it’s time to leave. Coal cars floating through the slick night, a chain of black violas and the burnt houses haunting the countryside will follow you into the trembling cities; it’s time to leave.

Hold to that old mumpsimus of the irreparable heart because the soil doesn’t hold the oaks, the roots clutch for life. If it lets go, we can kill it.

If you listen to the insects, you can hear their tiny prayers—their prayers deafen the fields.

Words fail us and we beg them not to. Chirp. Scurry.

Bury your head in my chest one last time, but deep, deeper, deeper. You must make a choice. Tell me to stay and let me hate you, tell me to leave and let me love you. Tell the insects to stop.