Sleeper Cells (A Father Implants Life Maps)

—for Dwayne and Roger

When most men bend crooked like rivers,
& every chest hair reminds you of your uncle—

the grunts, your grandpapa—you mesmerize at
your father like he the sweet crumb of cornbread

trapped in his own black beard. You don’t wonder.
You are too young to tag all the wins & losses,

the many daddies dropping, dropping, dropping.
These moments vesperize—jumping crystals before

halogen car lamps. How you are now—no more
a twinkle, an inkling—real motion gaining forward

balance with each wobbly step. Dad’s rich with
smiles—you are in his optics measuring his future.

His tunnel vision enlarges, replete with glad tensions
of gives & takes, tensions for planted Bluebells

& lullabies growing into tomorrow-things. He does this
grooming, this watering with tears, this talking, so his

child moves beyond semiprecious, becomes valued
minerals exploding in the earth, rich with runoff—

grows to outlaw the jaded of world’s dubiousness.
You, child, are neotsunami. The cocklebur within hot

verbs against stasis. The moon’s electric bill receipt.
He has prepared you for next Saturday’s rebellion.

Touch your face in photo album, his each & every believe.

Curtis L. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. He received a BA in English, with a minor in Theatre, from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), and he received an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Crisler’s book, THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS], was picked from over 100 manuscripts for Steel Toe Books 2016 Open Reading Period, and will be published in 2018. His recent poetry books are Don’t Moan So Much (Stevie): A Poetry Musiquarium (Kattywompus Press) and “This” Ameri-can-ah (Cherry Castle Publishing). His poetry chapbook, Black Achilles, was published by Accents Publishing. His previous books are Pulling Scabs (nominated for a Pushcart), Tough Boy Sonatas (YA), and Dreamist: a mixed-genre novel (YA). Other chapbooks are Wonderkind (nominated for a Pushcart), Soundtrack to Latchkey Boy, and Spill (which won a Keyhole Chapbook Award). He is the recipient of a residency from the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (COA/P), the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Soul Mountain, a guest resident at Hamline University, and a guest resident at Words on the Go (Indianapolis). Crisler has received a Library Scholars Grant Award, Indiana Arts Commission Grants, Eric Hoffer Awards, the Sterling Plumpp First Voices Poetry Award, and he was nominated for the Eliot Rosewater Award and the Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Award. His poetry has been adapted to theatrical productions in New York and Chicago, and he has been published in a variety of magazines, journals, and anthologies. He edited the nonfiction book, Leaving Me Behind: Writing a new me, on the Summer Bridge experience at IPFW. He’s been a Contributing Poetry Editor for Aquarius Press and a Poetry Editor for Human Equity through Art (where he’s now a board member). Crisler is an Associate Professor of English at IPFW. He can be contacted at

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