Adam Tavel
The Crisfield Winter Consumptives of 1908

           for Norman Dubie

Like mating grackles Toby’s dungarees
fluttered from the window into snow.
From my sill I watched mother pitch
his bare room barer: three blankets,
sling shot, church shirt, and the stool
he carved with father that summer
before their chests began to rumble
like locomotives. It wobbled when
he stood by the wash bin, scrubbing
dirt from his chin. Each night I’d plant
a foot to hold it firm and make certain
he used soap. I’d spit to slick his cowlick,
though I knew five was much too old
for a sister to linger by like a nanny,
petting the scar behind his ear.
Dr. Wilson said he never saw a wound
so small need a stitch. (He arrived
the next morning, thin as a pitchfork
when the blizzard broke.) At dusk,
winded and bootless, mother limped
our good lamp out into flurries
and smashed its oily belly down
to burn those scattered coughs before
she fainted in the poverty of ashes.

Phil Spector Points a Loaded Pistol

A bodyguard is reaching for the gun
that Spector levels at the camera lens.
It’s 1975 forever here
inside a kitschy van, their arms thrust out
the trapezoid the driver’s window left.
A stoned homunculus, his steel wool hair
combed up from sides across his scar-stitched scalp,
Spector dangles aviator shades
as nonchalantly as an oil tycoon
who learns mid-flight his third wife drowned on pills.
The sallow bearded goon’s been up for days.
Stealthily he creeps his thumb to uncock
the hammer. We leave him petrified,
we distant targets past the barrel’s aim.

Adam Tavel won the 2017 Richard Wilbur Award for his third poetry collection, Catafalque (University of Evansville Press, 2018). You can find him online at