Assume Most Talk is Libel: Two Poems by John Freeman


The Medicine and the Meat

My refrigerator has a throaty voice.
The cutting board is plastic.
I mead a diced onion
Into the hamburger and tear up.

Allergy—the things of the earth
Make you cry
And even the good face you wear
Shows it.

Matt’s father-in-law was dead
Facedown in his apartment three days
Before the police broke in
And found him.

The apartment window was open.
His car windows were open.
His keys and wallet sat
In the cup holder next to his sunglasses.

He talked a lot about sex
And football and his daughters.
He played in high school and college.
He would take you aside

And show you pictures of women
And old jerseys on his phone.
You would try to get away
From him.


The line of scrimmage
Is meat pounding against
Meat for inches and gaps
Along the line.
The team that bruises
The most wins.
Kurt would say things
Like “Football is life”
That people thought
Were dumb.
Most students of the game
Tell you they’ll take plodding
Over finesse.
“Give me a good line,” they’ll say,
“Your tackles, your ends.”


Little magenta capillaries
Showing through the skin of the face.
A good reader finds the liver
Regenerating cells the poem itself
Has killed.
Cross-threaded SSRIs,
The medicine and the meat,
Vodka cranberries.
This can go on
And on like grace.


A. Square’s Advice for Three Dimensional Shapes

Turn toward the dog and allemande
Bow to your corner or not
When stealing candles from the Dollar Tree
Avoid all thoughts of actual trees
Instead picture staggered line segments
Do not limp through the motions
If motion is irrelevant to the task
Do not limp through the stillness
Do not turn when you are screwed
Into the wall but wait
For something inanimate to be hung from you
Presume most talk is libel
Talk and talk and talk but do not
Say nothing
Busy spindles with the task of lying flat
And they will be less likely to impale you
Look into the river and be glad
That fish don’t swim behind your eyes
Use this knowledge to periodically sleep
Listen to starlings music and industrial noise
Indiscriminately as a barber
Who takes in gossip from all heads
Ignore reports of burglary
Obtain photographic evidence of broken
Doors for your files
Pretend that sycamores and pin oaks
Do not dance
Sweep the hair into a pile
Call it information

About the Author:

John Freeman was born and raised in Detroit, MI. He received his BA from University of Detroit Mercy and his MFA from Bowling Green State University. In 2004 Terrance Hayes awarded him the Devine Poetry Fellowship. His writing has appeared in many journals including Commonweal, Drunken Boat, The Journal, Nimrod, /nor and Ninth Letter. He is a recipient of the Howard P. Walsh Award for Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He currently teaches at Oakland University and lives in Dearborn, MI.