Joe Milazzo

Joe Milazzo is a writer, editor, educator, and designer. He is the author of the novel Crepuscule W/ Nellie and two collections of poetry: The Habiliments and Of All Places In This Place Of All Places. He co-edits the online interdisciplinary arts journal [out of nothing], is an Associate Editor for Southwest Review, and the proprietor of Imipolex Press. Joe lives and works in Dallas, TX, and his virtual location is

5 Field Recordings

Thanks for reading; best, JM

The field in question is contemporary and largely rhetorical. If these poems argue for resistance — as I hope they might — they do so by way of appropriating, repurposing and recontextualizing (via various strategies; that is, I have endeavored here to achieve thematic unity without relying on univocality) individual specimens of awfulness culled from the Western hemisphere’s dominant political discourses. 

Other poems from this sequence have previously appeared in the pages of Golden Handcuffs Review, Night Music, Prelude, The Texas Review, and Yes, Poetry

A Field Recording

Standard by standard, the casualties are still seizable. 

So long as the repercussions of dour armor

remain aloft. So long

as florid perforations 

suppress the spurious evidence of 

a courted folding. 

Outside their tented cramping, carcasses 


with the literal

to hoist another dimension into 

gimmick’s onomatopoeia.

So wolfing’s duty pops up.

So the cartoning 

of slaughter entrenches the leisurely shelving a more sterile 

rendition would scale. The fumes are so bloodthirsty.

Through this dreadful clarity,

the precipices 

where our more sufferable instincts shear 

sink beyond the smut of both sides.

So the furor 

of ordinary genitalia jinxes 

the dummied Greek of what’s to be defended.

So those little sentinels 

we plow

into disposability’s hoards

reunite us with their witness anyway, whether 

by their own kneeling 

or the striking of derelict heels. 

So amazement 

is seldom overdue, so long as jabbing

and gnashing can recover 

the conditioned heat 

from each uproar’s most pirated maneuvers.

A Field Recording

Tip or trick, the instrument

your greatness finds most 

wanting often dangles 

from the sag of clinging.

Bluntness, with its bashful 

promise of filth, hangs back 

in the median. Crossing 

can barely raise its fists 

out of the twist of its penny

bags’ plastic beige. If 

we tap out an acceleration 

through this risky tourniquet,

we’ll only have stopping 

to watch within

the forward-looking frame

of the windshield we never let

anyone else wipe. And,

at the rear of disgust’s 

interminable parade: 

more jaywalkers, more bootless

strapping, more discounts, more

paybacks, more papery shit,

more flies feasting on

their own most viscous parts.

A Field Recording

But we were never

not counted—

so long since assembled

around a national tally 

of towers, and broadcloth,

and the monumentally taciturn. 

We were granite, mortified,

and what we could’t stomach

was detained in domes most 

gracile and fatherly.

But we never exited. But we

never budgeted in red

capitals alone. Shouting only points 

towards pointing

with a glowering imitation of stars:

along damp jags

of shattering. But 

there’s rubbing in the streets.

But there are these strokes 

of a collapsing vernacular.

Where feet sorely convulsed,

the numbers cluster and 

ratify blind as a brain 

confined apart from its mind. 

And our collective plaque

is blocked, is

already registered.

A Field Recording

Muskets coat anachronism 

with a contrasting laughing gas.

A tricorne tossed into

the tournament of costumes

peeps a huffing conviction 

that pigeonholes any injuries. 

Shorthand snares 

no preparation,

only end-to-end torches, and where

there’s smoke, there’s lather. 

The low magenta

of throngs fumbles 

the head’s dressing until 

a rag to plaster bursts. 

The bland present their

stiffs before even 

this gummy truce.

Rehashing hardtack and raised 

hands has been tried.

Anachronisms must 

show a logo or

chance a flaccid commission.

At the business end of a Lazarus 

taxon, wholesome heroin

gunks up the flash pan. 

It’s by their crooked 

mending that we

drum up witches.

A Field Recording

How can what’s endless be so bloodless?

There’s no tender spectacle to show out.

There’s no new evidence to come toward.

There’s no again on top of again.

The growl of an approach or the whine

of a beating: either way, an about-face

seizes your slumber and plants a heart hard

down its shoulder, 

calving the trunk of its arm. 

At the first fever of arrest, wanting

fires its emergency. You overturn the sequence

of events in the hopes of drawing 

otherwise. Inside the backwards cataract

of your skull, darkness feigns everything

except how oily it thickens. Outside, all the bodies

strewn like yours—all about you—pool their bruising.

Your exhuming knows no stopping.

Your throbbing can brake no persuasion

in the dead’s churn of mud.