Josh Bettinger


2 poems

Cusp Of Navies

They had been swimming but had not
been swimming
insomuch as only displacing water is not
a stroke and train horns puffed them up
after the nap of lunch
once more a serene drive home 

from torn canyons, electricity and tiny edgewise bugs
partitioning the silences around them.
They had been swimming 

but mostly just seeing each other off of the edges—
a black water each night, repeatedly crashing
angles of disrepair and forgiveness—
we had been
, he told the stranger 

with the pastel teeth, we had been I know it
the fish were coursing
through my stomach like a spillway.

There are no more machineries left
to move through, or feel
even as the strength eases
from my heart a school of mockery and faith—
words put back in are salty.
There are parts of the day 

that I’ll never cognize: fifteen minutes
before dawn the concrete whispers up to feet,
post-lunch wooziness where sugar
is an absent ladder, 

and the roughly forty thousand seconds of distance
where darkness crawls into and occupies
my mouth like a wet bayonet
while the sun is away
with her mistress at the beach again once more.


Pinocchio At The Bottom Of The Ocean Sees God Who Is Not Made Of Wood

Look at all this dying here—who do we want.

Lovers pile themselves into large containers
that we continue to ignore 

because fire realizes itself in its reflection: the cow
wades across the grass, we pause, and thunderheads
unclench like fish back in water. 

You are all the fingers of a broken hand,
the squelch of tomorrow,
long minutes between how I talk and where the bones 

find me. There is never going to be a translation
of this—if we live for a thousand years 

and all we have to show for it is the hot night like a mouth 

holding our breaths from us
as the enemies of logic reclaim us quietly again—
it will remain like this a single wish bending in the current.

Josh Bettinger is a poet and editor whose work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, journals in the United States, England, Ireland, and Canada including Oxford Poetry, Salt Hill Journal, Michigan Quarterly Review, Handsome Poetry, SLICE, The Los Angeles Review, Crazyhorse, Columbia Journal, and Boston Review, among others. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and children.