the snow – Damien Ark

(written in 2020)


the snow won’t melt

it just builds up

four inches today

a foot more tomorrow

i pray for you

then i drink it down

i get so trashed 

every last tree, like skeletal fingers

sticking halfway out of a frozen river

there’s an american flag razored to shreds

by sharp poison branches with thorns

leaking ebony blood through each star

i put my flashers on

scrape more ice off 

and take pictures on my phone of 

the factory smoke drifting over the frozen lake

muddy slush soaked into my socks

driving barefoot and toes freezing

you should see the camps

in thin crevices under bridges

i hand a woman two hand warmers

a water a shampoo a deodorant a tampon

a pillow a blanket

and she tells me to fuck off with my

mental health support bullshit

when i get home i text you

and the snow is halfway up the door


when the snow melted

thirty levees broke

a bomb cyclone hit 

and two thousand homes were destroyed

by the time the flood was gone

it was winter, with more snow


the mist freezes the roads

the sun is caged for the next four months

we drift around hopelessly

frostbitten bloody knuckles

i wait for a text back

but it’s never the one i need

and then there’s another bottle

it’s 1AM i’m not done drinking


we were fortunate in that it only flooded our laundry room

the washer emitting smoke and fire alarms beatboxing 

trying to save our clothes before our bodies are incinerated

they dropped hay from planes for horses stranded in flooded rural towns

wastewater plants collapsed and the entire counties sunk into rivers of shit

tens of thousands of houses sunken, all your precious belongings

you cannot fathom the scent of the heaping shit


with houses, camps also glided 

into the missouri river

it’s miserable, feeling this fucking helpless

camps outside of religious shelters

that turn away the youth, people of color, queers, addicts

& hundreds of refugees displaced by a slumlord

after already being displaced by their home country

with another slumlord on a mission to gentrify

every last street a homeless person has slept on


there’s a girl i know living in a shed

with no door and busted wooden panels

right outside of an abandoned house

that torrented into flames in a meth lab explosion a while back

a mattress in each room, molded to the floor

a layer of ice over the soiled waste on it

tents slashed up in the backyard and half-buried in snow

she lives here getting sold around by SRO’s

that lie about being veterans 

her unmedicated schizophrenia

constantly being raped on emergency blankets 

slamming meth with child rapists that give her attention

cutting herself if she can’t get her fix 

she was twenty and homeless when i first met her

and now she’s twenty-three, still on the same street corners

but i still haven’t lost my faith in her


i wake up naked on the sofa

turkey and deer in grandma’s backyard

feral cats squeezing through the decaying wooden fence

knocking over lavender tea as i squeeze into my boots

six inches of styrofoam cotton coming down

from an ashtray in the bruised sky

there’s a confederate man in a red truck plowing the neighbor’s driveway

with red stripe in his passenger seat

i put on my briefs and sweatpants before walking out barefoot

to hand him ten dollars and have him clean my snow

he takes my money, gifts me a beer

and I recognize his face, six months ago i did his housing papers

he was living in that truck in a walmart parking lot


it’s negative four degrees and before i leave work

i see a client wandering the alleys screaming at voices

she used to hit on me

she likes to flash her tits at cars and fight people in the street

she lives in a makeshift tent in a park

where people are known to traffic, selling tricks and hard drugs


most of these shelters are christian-based

some of them place queers with sex offenders

some just slam the door on queers altogether

there’s a place the social workers call crack-park

with homeless queers, undocumented people, young adults

every few months the cops raid it and tear it down

but even when you think it’s been abandoned

during the floods, after a blizzard

there’s always a new unfamiliar person sleeping there 


the plow trucks wake me up at four in the morning

sound travels further the colder it gets

right now it sounds like the train is over my head

and ready to demolish this house

i can’t do this shit anymore, it’s four in the morning

waiting for a client so unhinged that he shoots me in the head

instead, with two hours of sleep in me, i’ll save him again


and at the end of the glass

is a pathetic little snowflake

that doesn’t melt away

no matter how harsh the sickness

no matter how brutal the snowstorm

no matter how cruel the flood


(written in 2019)


your childhood home

that goes back to the 1930s

sunken under the crops that helped build it

like a fairy tale without any magic

raised in hog pins full of shit 

warm liquid manure spraying all over the grass

fields of child rape and swollen purple eyes

of messy divorces and suicide attempts

grandpa shooting pregnant cats

castrating pigs and throwing testicles in a silver bucket

grandpa running over your leg with his motorcycle

and telling you to get up you spineless faggot

& a picture of grandpa’s house on fire

held up on the fridge with six magnets

my uncles point their fingers at it and laugh

and chug blue moons and talk shit about being fatherless

was i really born from this land

out of all the alcohol and meth

i can barely remember any of it

except for the abandonment

mom and dad screaming in a bathroom

rolling hills of corn and soybeans

grandma’s endless garden of vegetables

eating blackberries off of trees 

chickens running around without heads

the school bus sliding off the road and all of us children

making jokes about weiners and boobies in a ditch

as the fog and the mist and sleet and snow caught up to us

slipping on ice downhill on the way home from school

splitting my lip on the icy sidewalk

licking cracked bloody knuckles because i lost my gloves

feeding myself spaghetti-o’s because I’m not allowed to have dinner for losing my gloves

hiding a yarmulke in my left pocket, squeezing it

birthday dinners, funerals, bris’s, bar mitzvah’s, weddings

barnyards, million-dollar tractors, raided meth houses

forts of snow, sunburns and sun-kissed, tornado sirens

learning a clarinet, joining the youth klezmer quartet

great-grandma’s poetry read from the seventh floor of a retirement home

my uncles wrestling me in their tool and metallica shirts while they were high on meth

petting bengal cats, lung cancer, colon cancer, extermination stories

snow melting in my hands, blood draining out of my father’s nostrils

the blizzard comes through and buries it all as if none of it ever happened

we keep warm with beer and liquor and listen to the windsong’s ballad

the house shaking to the vibration of planes flying over our heads

stories that we’ve lost and have washed up and will never be written



(written in 2015)

she smoked a joint
on the warm fuzzy toilet seat
as a mutated plague rat
gnawed its teeth into the wall
she napped in the bathtub
throttling her eyeballs
as her brother dug a dagger
into a soggy dictionary
and hid an ounce of weed in it
he didn’t know why she had
let a pot of water boil
on the stove for an hour
he didn’t understand why she had
placed a mason jar of spiders
in the freezer next to the ahi tuna steaks
jagged fangs dug deep
into her upper lip
until each cold sore exploded
she handed her brother ten dollars
and turned the stove on again
a sheet of snow
balanced above the windows
the walls cracked and bent
to the gust of the negative thirteen-degree wind
the glowing white was on fire
as he plunged his snow shovel
beneath the ice and rock salt
spitting out gravel and worms
his mother waited
beating an air-horn
while he cleared a path for her
through four feet of snow
when she came into the house she smelled like
1930s farmhouse in iowa sometime in july
with the dead pig shit under her boots
a rotting residue from the dying pregnant feral cats
puking violently in the half-flooded basement
and the kitchen that reeked of
shitty five-day-old chinese take-out food
she made some chai with the boiling water
unpacked a bag of dry food she got from the local pantry
another day of cutting corpses in a slaughterhouse
put to rest she browns some beef in a dirty skillet
her son sucks on his gloves and squeezes hand warmers
his frigid skinny white body collapsed to the floor
barely breathing snow all over his coat and camo jeans
thinking i don’t want to go to work and wash dishes
for a 7.25 minimum-wage at pizza ranch tomorrow
his sister hid the dictionary in a bag of
half empty cat food in her closet
just two grams of weed left in it
the fridge was open when he had woken up
he sucked the seeds out from a dragon fruit
thought about some shit
like more snow outside and a piss test on the counter
and mumbled an exhausted “ma, what the fuck”
“watch your mouth,” mom said.
“fuck you for giving birth to me bitch.”
she didn’t notice
he loaded up her shotgun
took it out from under her bed and into his room
the barrel could barely fit into his mouth
his sister was stoned and playing her
CASIO keyboard making some bad bedroom pop
mom was out chainsmoking letting the hamburger helper simmer
snow drifted through the open backyard door
her mind only on her eight dollar wage,
her son’s piss test, the thousands of dead cows and pigs
and that’s all that she could feel
there was a pop that reminded her of the machine
that crushes a cow’s skull into dust
and when she entered the bedroom
it looked just like the lake of blood outside the meat plant
she took the shotgun back with her to her room
and rolled two shells around like kinetic balls
until the daughter started screaming
like she’s been shut into a meat locker
mom finishes the fireball bottle
the livestock freezes and it seems that
the snow won’t melt anytime soon