The Arc of Field Stones

In the clearing of a field, throwing stones
in the air, we watch gray bats—dozens
of them— issue from the canopy
of dark branches. Silent, we see their black
bodies track the arc skyward, descend
in unison, disappear as the earth
breaks the path of the stone. To hear him
describe it now—the speed of the train
annihilating the landscape leading
into Cambodia—is to know
the rusted blade of the scythe, its tender
curve. Unlike me, my father doesn’t know
or care where the bats retreat, doesn’t
wonder how they could mistake field
rocks for food. He’s seen this confusion
before: a single white bird descending,
its beak carrying a bullet
pulled from the killing fields.

Brandon Courtney spent four years in the United States Navy. His poetry is forthcoming or appears in Best New Poets 2009, Linebreak, and The Los Angeles Review among others, and he has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He attends the M.F.A. program at Hollins University. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761