The Word by Corey Spencer

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


I could tell

when the men I most admired said it

    — fun uncle J, the Vietnam vet,
gnawing a cigar beneath the black willows limbs;

    and dad, that month hocking used work
boots from the back of his pick-up —

it was a sacred demon

I could tell

by the double haunches of its guh's
how the S slipped off their tongues like a tail


I would say it too, out in the woods
with my new neighbor Ty;

twigs poking from our lips
like fragile switches

we'd throw pinecone grenades,
and yell it     loud   and      long
then plug our ears up with pinky tips

and while stabbing cardboard 
fast as we could with dad's rusty flathead
we'd sputter — say it      

then swell up with hot pride
at how we had captured its power
with our mouths     so simply


one day uncle J, asked Ty:
dontcha even know yer own Daddy iz one?

but when I asked mom about this
she just pinched my cheek and sshhhed


Now the word lives on; locked-up

in my throat; like a gargoyle, it leers

over love for my flawed family

Photo of Corey Spencer

Photo of Corey Spencer

Corey Page Spencer was born and raised in up-country South Carolina. After struggling to find a place in his hometown and moving from college to college, he eventually moved to New York and got into New York University where he studied sociology and then, literature and poetry. He is now an MFA Poetry candidate at Columbia University.