Dustin Pearson


I wish I could explain the danger that lies in a look
through a window. People will say, Why not
draw the shades? It’s a beautiful day outside.

Having seen, I’ll agree, but left alone with the view,
the beauty tugs so strongly on my eye that
the vessels inside it break, and so the beauty bleeds.
The sky stirs. Red leaks into the blue. The sky turns
purple marvelously, but the red keeps leaking until
there is only red, a red so rich so high in the sky,
and the wind blows. All the trees lose their greens.
The waters wash over the grounds, and then in the sky,
there’s lightning. It strikes in straight lines then arcs
and branches, then the branches become limbs
that swirl everything together. The window
I look through and the room I’m sitting in are fine,
and at some point, the world interrupts. This time
it’s my brother. I recognize his knock even if
it’s different. When I open the door, his hand
is a fist hanging away from his arm and himself
like a bird feeder, wrapped and bound by a loose
stretch of skin. It seems to swing a bit and twist as if
someone were giving it a gentle spin. It occurs to me
my brother used it to get my attention. He wanted me
to see. Had he experienced the day like I had, only
to this difference? His room was just up the stairs.
By the light up there, he’d also drawn the shades
and stared in. His wrist was broken, but he’d gotten
both of us away from it. He hadn’t said anything
and wouldn’t answer, even as I popped him in place,
even as I wrapped the bandages around him.


My brother and I used to scheme
to make money. It was our way
of coping with the tiny allowances
our father gave us, a coping
he didn’t realize would make us
creative, my brother less so
because his allowance was always
double mine. Those days
were adjacent to digging for treasure
in our backyard, of looking into
a blue sky and dreaming of being
sailors discovering large chests
of jewels under the ocean.
The world had so many limits
back then, imposed by a man
who became a dad so the grudge
he held against his family
would pay attention to him,
but even looking at the perimeter,
the ordinary, localized possibilities
of a house whose backyard
was marked by a boundary
of gray wood, we became masters
of projection. We never sold
lemonade in the street. It was what
the other kids in the neighborhood
and the kids on TV were doing,
but perhaps they were happy,
perhaps they didn’t know selling
sweetened citrus in a Dixie cup
full of vital liquid for a quarter
or 50 cents was no amount of money
that could take them anywhere, perhaps
under their houses wasn’t a fire
whose fingers curled around them.


My brother and I
had souls
to swirl
vast darkness.
To that debt,
we gave our dad
his hands locked
around our faces
until he left.
He’s come back
to two men
who can only move
to knife the other
who can only reach
to cleave.
He creeps
around us
like he hadn’t died
when he first left.
Father, why
are you dying?
We killed you.
You should be dead.

Dustin Pearson is the author of A Season in Hell with Rimbaud (BOA Editions, 2022), Millennial Roost (C&R Press, 2018), and A Family Is a House (C&R Press, 2019). He is a McKnight Doctoral Fellow in Creative Writing at Florida State University. The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and The Anderson Center at Tower View, Pearson has served as the editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review and a Director of the Clemson Literary Festival. He won the Academy of American Poets Katharine C. Turner Prize and John Mackay Graduate Award and holds an MFA from Arizona State University. The recipient of a 2021 Pushcart Prize, his work also appears in Blackbird, Vinyl Poetry, Bennington Review, TriQuarterly, [PANK], The Literary Review, Poetry Daily, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere.