The Church of the Open Crayon Box

By Patricia Lockwood Patricia Lockwood
Must be entered through the sharpener every Sunday,
else your name will be lovingly written in the Book
of the Down Arrow. The One Steeple to Every Church
                                                 rule breaks in half
in the Church of the Open Crayon Box; the One Bell
to Every Steeple rule breaks off its tip. “Climb stairs
to the steeples,” the preacher commands, “and let
every belltone ring out!” You can see the whole town
from the steeple, and you exit the church through
the view, and you walk through what calls itself

                                      Flagpole—the town is a blot
                                      on the town, but the railroad
is coming out this way and we must give them a smear
to see through the windows: now you pass the General Store,
that even your vaguest stick figure can enter, now you pass
a vacant lot: the post office isn’t here yet, is only a set-aside space
in the center of the country’s envelope; now you pass the voting-
place, where we stuff our handwriting through a slit. Tall trees
fall in the pinewoods, tall telegraph poles are raised, and words
inch along our wires: text text text stop, text text text stop.

And now you pass the Feed Store, which sells carrot and turnip
and sugar-beet tops—only the visible parts—and now Whitey
BaLavender’s Hardware, where everything hangs off the hook
of its color, or color hangs off the hook of its all, where you work
your hands into cool washers, and work hands into nailheads
of the color blue, and watch Whitey BaLavender busy himself
          pouring crayons into bullet molds. You show him a list
          that says “ax,” and he sells you a red line through it.
                     All up and down Main Street ponies are covered
                     with strokes as coarse as horse blankets. And once
          you have drawn the ponies you begin to draw the saddle
shop, you grip the right color like a saddle horn and somehow
keep from falling off, and you ride to the edge of town,
where you draw the fur trading post, where they sell tails
of any shy animal, the rest of the animal gone down a hole,
where you trade in your skin for a possibles bag and wear
possibles bag where your skin was. Fat geese fly in any letter
you like but you need red meat for once, and write a splayed-
hide word like “Deerslayer,” and take hold of the ending
                                                         and drag it home,

and now you are almost there, now you are building the home
with hand-drawn Log Cabin Font, you are building it log
by log of course and smoothing the logs with a color called
Adze, you are biting the crayon to notch the logs and driving
in dots of nailheads. Stumps of umber surround you, and the sky
is beginning to look like sky. You are hoping a man can be really
          alone here;
                            you are hoping your father can tell what it is;
and now only the doorknob is left to draw and in your enthusiasm
you shout at the paper, and the weather
                            changes just in time, not raining, beginning to spit.

Source: Poetry (February 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2011
 Patricia  Lockwood


Patricia Lockwood’s poems have appeared in the New Yorker, the London Review of Books, Tin House, and Poetry. She is the author of Balloon Pop Outlaw Black (Octopus Books, 2012).

In April 2014, Patricia Lockwood was a featured writer for Harriet.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Coming of Age, Arts & Sciences, Painting & Sculpture, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Town & Country Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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