With a cigarette smile, he killed
the first crime
of outlaw: bake your bread
on the side you butter.
He ate raw, she felt.
Be the one your man can stand
behind in a gunfight.
Put a bullet in the throat
that spews fire for your belly.

Such was the lightning of life:
the final translation of imagination.
Rock the fantasy borne
by the backs of childhood.
You can hold two pine cones
and rubber frogs all your life,
or you can build the tree
that harbors the lake
that grows the stool on
which the prince lays his eggs.

A frog can go anywhere he leaps.
But the egg must roll her way
in shadow, effortless to break.
The main thing, the summit
of life detected,
is to hold your heart high,
a teacher once advised.
This poem isn’t truth but bears it.

Amy King is the author of I’m the Man Who Loves You and Antidotes for an Alibi, both from Blazevox Books, The People Instruments (Pavement Saw Press), and forthcoming, Slaves to Do These Things and I Want to Make You Safe. She edits The Poetics List, moderates the Women’s Poetry Listserv (WOMPO) and teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College. She is currently editing an anthology, The Urban Poetic, forthcoming from Factory School.For information on the reading series Amy co-curates, go to The Stain of Poetry: A Reading Series site or visit her at