I ground a worm between my teeth, swallowed its five hearts
in the fourth grade because a blonde girl
dared me to. I never signed up for Boy Scouts.
There were woods behind my house
scattered with berries I couldn’t digest. I’d curl on top of the dirt
hugging the knot inside my belly and now
I’m in bed kissing a pale green vein
as I listen to his voice like a knife with its scar—
six birds stretched
across a fret board. I fear loneliness but fear crowds more.
Some people say Death is a seashore in Fiji.
Give me a heart attack
or an undertow. Something with panic, a chauffeur speeding me to that
The place with one velvet seat,
projectors reeling. I could’ve been a dung beetle.
I could’ve been a gut flora or a topiary.
A breeze through a window cooling the fever.
Let me die in winter
where the white light leafs overhead—
eggs of earthworms capsuled in freeze.
I kiss the vein some more: a blurred night
traveling backwards at escape velocity.
I smoke cigarettes and piss outside. My teeth are daffodils.
I cover them with a palm when I smile.
Listen to Sean Shearer read this poem:
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“Conor Oberst” from RED LEMONS: by Sean Shearer.
Published by University of Akron Press 2021.
Copyright © 2021 by Sean Shearer.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Sean Shearer is an American poet. He is the author of the collection Red Lemons, which won the Akron Poetry Prize in 2019. Honors include a Pushcart Prize, a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, and he served as a Poe/Faulkner Fellow at the University of Virginia. Sean resides in Gloucester, Massachusetts and works at the coffee-tech startup Cometeer.
Red Lemons is a moving debut collection about drug addiction and loss told through both a narrative and surreal lens, swaying from logic to absurdity, grimness to beauty. In these poems there is a “war with self” tethered to both the narrative and lyric, often playing with scope and leaps that fall between the threshold of order and chaos—a style of gentle reserve and wild transparency—Red Lemons is poised with brutal imagination, where nightmares “wait beyond the night / in a pitch we cannot hear, / like a still pond and all its eaten.”