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Scott Whitaker

About the Poet
Scott Whitaker lives in Onley, Virginia with his wife and two boys and teaches in Worcester County, Maryland.

In 2008 he was nominated for a Pushcart prize in fiction. His poetry, prose, and reviews appear in dozens of journals.

He is the author of two chapbooks of poetry: The Barleyhouse Letters from Finishing Line Press, and Field Recordings, winner of the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, and the Delaware Press Award for best verse.

Currently Whitaker is experimenting with spelling and text, inspired in part by Twitter poetry, which forces the writer to boil ideas down to 160 characters or less.

He is also working on a magical realism novel.


Came out of California with a knife, a car
and a scar across my heart so wide
it would take years before I could say
more than a few words to lovers.
Went through Ohio and stayed
because I had nothing
and laid about for a while.
Then table waiting in Kentucky,
floor washing in Virginia
and tomato picking
before the farmer offered me a job at his stand.
He wanted sex, too and I was so thick by then
I let him have his bidding with my body.
Then Philly, Boston.
Half way through fall I knew New England cold was too much
like bleached bones for me
So I ended up in Florida.
Figured can't sweat to death, right?
By January I had transformed into my mother.
Only thing missing was the truck driver in the kitchen,
the gin, the jerky wrist
from speed and coke.
The only way out of the portal
is for me to stop its construction.
I vowed then that to have children was forbidden.
That the only way to save myself from myself
was death at the end of a long life of loneliness,
that, or maybe the church.
My mother would cry tears at that one.
Next winter it's Seattle
I got some friends out there; they got things going on,
and I like the rain, especially when I'm driving
and the radio reels in those voices and it's like
they're speaking only to me. Like someone has reached down
and touched you. That kind of love you can't beat, no way.

To top



Can't you see my bones?
They are the gleaming rails
of lacquered coffins

bearing bodies to seed the fields
beyond the seal skin shack
at the edge of the wood.

I too tramp wastes.
Search for me between your fingers
and the rag down t-shirts I slept in

that summer at the cabin,
before Boston and varied streets,
the wild avenue parties.

Oh, to become lost in a city
is like feeling your skin
for the first time

the strange doorknobs shaking hands,
the flattened brickyard cheeks,
to shout down the throat of the street

while drunk is to be bigger
than you once were
which was small, like a stone, like a bean.

To top



"The chair is against the wall.
The chair is against
the wall.
John has a long moustache.
John has
a long moustache.” [1]

The sleepr agnts tune themslvs
as they come dwn
for breakfast
the dark night breaking
or falling beyond their window
and they pawn and stretch and lean
before milk
and coffee
into th general population.

Is it such and such and such...
long fingrs tappng the window glass
as the chorus plays over and ovr,
the radio on
the numbers uncurling out of speakrs.

The girl in red
walkng away from a target
who has no idea
that they r dead,
or that they will be
when chemicals mix and burn all their joys,
their weathered hearts.

So many bodies wrecked
over the years
from so many surprise attacks.

In dim alleys under dark tumble blocks
where bars stay open forever
and high heels echo
over cobblestone streets
that once led carts to market
and now lead
the would be lost
to disco caves,
leather clubs,
to the death smoke of the whale bars.

And sleepr agnts come in packs
and apply disguises and pass information
and smoke, smke, smk
like wicks on lazy dynamite
tucked into the chambers of the heart.

[1] The quote is from Red Dawn, starring P. Swayze, C. Sheen, among others. The phrases were used by the French Resistance as code, sometimes in poetry, to throw off the Nazis. The misspellings in the poem are intentional, to mimic code.

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This is a story about a boy who swallowd a cup of tacks
because he hated his voice so much
he wantd to shred it beyond pitch.

This is a story about a boy who hasn't heard a story he can blieve in,
at least not for more than a few minutes,
before decidng it is bettr to smoke
than to have faith.

Match strike

the meetng begns.
Three women and three men

and three speak with a voice that is not owned.
Which is to say
to not speak at all,

despite plosives pushng ovr teeth.
Words, merely borrowd speech,
waverng in the wet wintr air.

The little boy listns to his parnts and his uncles and wives,
echoes hovring through the grate
and ovr his face
as he listens, listns, lstns.

how it beats
and beats its sheaths
against mountains and hills
and th cabn
we've escapd to.

Canada. It's wet and damp, and far awy frm love.

Even the might of our plannd destruction
cannot keep us warm.

And in truth
I am glad.

This is the story of a boy who had to burn his comic books
evry time his parents moved
it was the only way to ensure one held onto nothing
othr than family,

This is the stry of a boy
who is not a boy,
who is not
a not,
a not
but only proof
that family exsts

instead of a clutch of spies
hiding in the middle of the neighborhood.
They look like us.
They are us in reverse.

We are the
the we
and the only nurture we take
is our own counsel.

This moth knowledge begns
when a small child unlearns their schoolng,
and learns to lie about what he is,
and to mask the sounds
of his body

and like a crab slink
into the murk and muttle and slunk of spring creek bed
only to scuttle again
when the tide settles
aftr sunset.

We leap and loop and live and retrn like a needle
to the centr of the recrd
befr we crack
from overuse,
or from hidng in crates,
breathing mold,
before being sold in box lots at some crmmy yard sale,
always less of a catch than anyone expects.

This is what the heart feels like.

Imagine having a dream that extendd into yr fingertips
so that yr fingernails dreamed of light,
and th follicles on yr skin dreamed of being free
and imagine having yr toes dream of the tap tap tap of a hard floor.
Imagine then
so late in yr years waking to the mirror fact
that you are not what you seem
and are
and have been
planning a destruction so torrid
that the news of it would be censored and silenced.

Imagine eatng breakfast,
the waffles crunching under yr fork
realizing for the frst time that yr famly
is a trick,
an arrngmnt
for the sake of hate.

Imagne eatng, and knowng yr fathr is a kllr,
yr mothr is a seductrss
and when you look in the mrror
there is only

a field, and sunflowers, bright beams hanging over the green spaces like girders,
like the markings of an escape plan,
the markings of the othr side.

To top



"Every week she'd visit the butcher with her foster parents and marvel at the bones....Though she eventually learned to speak, the team of credentialed doctors with millions of dollars in federal funding could not rescue Genie from a fate of abuse and exploitation." - Susan Donaldson James, ABC News

Genie licks her lips
across the bone
her teeth buck out
against the stone
of lamb, beef, or honeyed ham,
even after a dozen washings
this toy,
this thighbone.

And Genie groans and grunts,
her broken memes
in the corner butcher shop
and the butcher
with his slick hair,
his bloody mop
laughs and belly snorts

as the girl discovers with carnival sport
the brace and pipe
of life
while her doctors write reports
as he,
the butcher,
lays the meat
before the chop, chop, chop.

~ Scott Whitaker
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