Elijah Burrell


Seven aching months of feet,
wildfire beneath the soles, preamble
pang for waking. My feet made it hard
to stand and walk. Her scraping sickness
woke her, but kept her from rising at all.

What a mysterious machine,
the body. Bobby Dylan once said,
‘I’m determined to stand whether God will deliver
me or not’ she told me one night.
That’s a brave thing to say, I said.

But machine and Deliverer both stilled her.
The pain traveled from my feet for a bit
after she left—my feet felt fine.
It tramped around my chest and head
and stomach and hands before it returned.

Sour and wet, it moved to my eyes,
so red like flesh prisoned in a grapefruit.

A fearsome something bides its time in the woods
behind our house. My neighbor called a meeting
because he lost his dog last week. It barked
and barked where the lawn meets the trees,
then yelped and disappeared.

Experts came to explore the woods, track it,
And trap it. They emerged with surprise
in their eyes. Something has changed, they said.

You’re not the same since the thing began
to snarl at night, since the living green
of leaves and limbs went brown.

Now I can feel it, you tell me.

We sprayed the woods with poison, to no avail.
You wince when I touch your hips or shoulders.

I want to numb and ease your sore bones’ ache. 
Behind our house, the fearsome something waits.


Elijah Burrell‘s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Agni, Birmingham Poetry Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Measure, Sugar House Review, Structo, and many others. He received the 2009 Cecil A. Blue Award in Poetry and the 2010 Jane Kenyon Scholarship at Bennington College. He was honored to contribute at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in 2012. Audio versions of his poetry have recently been featured on both The Missouri Review’s and Sugar House Review’s podcasts. He resides in Jefferson City, Missouri, with his wife and two little girls, and teaches creative writing and literature at Lincoln University.