Settlers by Brandon Amico


So you’ve found three knives floating in a barrel next door. Remain calm. Do not get lost in the light flowing from their edges. Prioritize. First thing: you’re manacled by the ankle to a 400- pound black bear, the chain is as long as a full tank goes, and not once have you noticed it pulled taut. In job interviews, they always ask about the chain. You let them make jokes about it, don’t mention the mornings where the steel gallop of a subway car loops in your head, the dog sun hung-over and mounting the trees slowly. You say: There’s so much culture here. You don’t say: I would not raise a family here. I have come for the same reason as all the others: the reflections off your glass buildings are green, and I am ill with something that cannot be cut out of me. Today, you wish you could disappear into a crowd, forget these handles and their sharp headgear, but the space and high property value render you conspicuous. You run past the Buddha who hangs upside down from telephone pole branches, laughing his jackal laugh. The woods creak ahead to reach their ancient hands at the suburbs staggering in recession—to choke them green.

For every two pennies he made, my great-grandfather thumbed one into the dirt behind his home. What grew there shaded the children in summertime, come winter it stood in their window like a soldier, spartan and unglamorous. In my final public performance, they locked me in a coffin, chained the coffin to that tree, then lit it on fire. I jumped down from the branches with my fingertips burned, result of a step in the trick carried out wrong. The newspapers asked what I was called; a new name is that easy. We met the next day, when you asked for help with subway transfers; a new life is that easy. When I married you, skyscrapers bowed in the heat. There was a lamb somewhere west of the reception staring through a hole in its fence at the flushed mountains beyond it. If an apartment is high enough from the pavement, every window is a magic door. Where are the welcoming parties? Where are the children arrived with dollar bills in their teeth? The sun slides up the rails of the buildings and back down again, and daily our ghosts trail it across the city’s glass; we watch them from our balcony. This final trick, both individual and part, a rabbit pulled from different hats . . . Let all the phones carol at once. Let us hum the words in the dark room in the back, loosen the knot of our limbs, pry something from the living earth itself. Let it be ours. Let it be green.

Brandon Amico is from New Hampshire. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hunger Mountain, The Carolina Quarterly, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. You can visit him at