A Fling of Dunlins

A man in the bar, with what looks like a dunlin
but is meant to be the head of an eagle stencilled

onto his jersey, says he wants fisticuffs with me.
I want fisticuffs, he says. I want you

bleeding out on the floor, he says.
A student in my symposium on Plato’s Republic says

she has to sit close to the door, or else, and I do
not know what else is out there, other than a business

of flies making a commotion out of rotting apple core.
Socrates would’ve rather have been a gadfly

than any other animal, which is unfortunate.
Following the jurisdiction of the collective noun,

a gadfly is all business and no play, unlike a gulp of cormorants
or a deceit of lapwings. I do not want fisticuffs with the deceit

of men skulking up and down the bar because, put on trial
for my life, I have done very little wrong, other than bump

bodies with another, an instance of the space-
time continuum where physics and equilibrium

are to blame, just like the football game on the television
where a convocation of eagles butt skulls with a pod of dolphins.

A dolphin falls to the ground, flops slightly, and is then removed
from the field. I prefer the collective noun deceit when used

to describe men. What in the world have the lapwings done
to be called liars? Our inner vision is blurred by a cloud

of gnats. The council in the bar want me to acknowledge
the Gods that the city acknowledges. I am a new, unrecognized

congregant, with my ankle-high boots, my shorts cropped just
above my knee. They would turn me into a hyacinth if they could.

Fight me, Faggot, the man says. Let’s have fisticuffs, he says.
As if I were a faggot of sticks. Rub two pieces of wood together

and all of those tender molecules falter, like when a swirling ball
falls from the air. An eagle runs on two feet past a white line painted

across the grass. Another dolphin trips and cracks a dorsal fin. Everyone
in the bar pushes their vocal cords to be louder than the next

colony of vocal cords. They bring their pairs of hands together over
and over again, and noise pours out. Everything we know

about Socrates is reported. The student in my symposium
keeps looking at the door, outside of which is the world.

The projector blasts my professor’s shadow against the wall.
The man who has called me faggot has the name of another man

sprawled across his shoulders.

Matthew Tuckner recently received his BA from Bennington College, where he worked as a Production and Editorial Assistant for Bennington Review. He also recently received the 2019 Green Prize for Poetry from the Academy of American Poets, selected by Rick Barot. He has received support for his fiction and poetry from the Roxbury Writers Residency, where he was an inaugural resident, the NYS Writers Institute, and the Summer Seminar for Writers at Sarah Lawrence College. He currently resides in Westchester, NY.

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