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Published: Mon Jul 1 2013
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Brass Knuckles

If they could speak, they would

they would stumble
and stammer like

Demosthenes’ pebbles,
in an attempt to spit

out, between grout
and loose gneiss, How

’bout those Mets, or
Give us a kiss.

On nights when they’re twitchy,
they might reach for a shot

of the warm, raw, amber-
lit solace

of unblended whisky,
while on days when

they’re dizzy
with business, they hum.

No one reveres them
and they prefer no

one does; would have
their existence

iconoclastic and

swaddled in rag cloth

or plastic or burlap
or any loose fabric

to abuse, kept within

reach in the clancular
backs of roll-top desk drawers,

or tossed like white-
hot potatoes

down crepuscular

of irregular cellars.

Hailey Leithauser is the author of two poetry collections: Saint Worm (Able Muse Press, 2019) and Swoop (Graywolf Press, 2013), which won the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson First Book Award and the Towson Prize for Literature. Her work has appeared in The Birmingham Poetry Review, 32 Poems, Cincinnati Review, The Hopkins Review, Plume, Poet Lore, AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and The Yale Review. (updated 4/2023)

Leithauser’s AGNI poem “The Moon Speaks of Polar Bears” was chosen for The Best New Poets 2010.

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