When a kid falls in the mosh pit, you pick them up.

As a rule, we were mostly against
boots to the face and being pinned
down by the white-water of bodies,

bodies of mostly still boys pulled
shirtless then skinned by the incensed
current carrying the river’s surface,

a surface surfeit with our fathers’
absences – our bared canines hollowed
with cavities and festered abscesses.

Abscess, from the Latin, adding the words
“away from” to “go.” We take back roads
further into the decayed parts of the county,

counting miles with broken beer bottles
thrown out the windows of our cars,
yearn a bit for a crash to twist us wrong,

wrong as the inside, the pus and blood
wanting to blossom from our cells, mar us,
mottle our skin with scars. Our arms waiting,

weighted with infection, some already pocked,
a rash of rosy rings from cigarette burns
bloomed and wilting, falling into ashes

ashes, we all fall down. Could we go back,
bend the river to float us toward a return
to a garden never forgotten, play pretend,

pretend the river didn’t hate us for every sip
that spilt from our crave-riddled bodies?
For now, we can only lick a lip sincerely split,

split by another broken boy or a smile
spread too wide for the cold. We’ll build
a ship from ourselves to lift another body,

a body riven with hunger like a hammer,
a want like white-water coursing through a boy
still on the floor wanting for the boots to fall.

Zackary Medlin is the winner of the Nancy D. Hargrove Editor’s Choice Prize, the Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry, and a recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Award. He holds an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Utah.