Instructions for Use by CL Bledsoe and Tony Mancus

The Growlers, photo by David Brendan Hall
The Growlers are Currently on Tour + their new single “Try Hard Fool”
September 13, 2019
Indie Pop Duo Tegan and Sara announce acoustic tour to support new album Hey I’m Just Like You
September 14, 2019

Instructions for Use


Don't waste your spare. When the tiger comes sniffing around your boots, point it toward the lake you meant to name after your progeny, but don't teach the hook the language of the fishes. All will learn in good time, or drown, or give up and walk away, or sell their experience to a reality TV production company. It's easy enough over time to think when you hear the metal voice of the tiger across the pond, well, I could have been famous. The truth is, it's not so much about throwing yourself in the water as it is finding the right hand to pull you under. Just pray it doesn't let go before the fickle air pulls you back.




If only you looked at me​​ 

the way you look at​​ 

the void. If only the void​​ 

looked back at you the way​​ 

I look at the alarm clock. A fire​​ 

ate through the forest I was saving​​ 

to die in, the smoke it threw up​​ 

was hardly legible to the satellites.​​ 

A slip of paper flutters down. On it,​​ 

a list of directions on how to make​​ 

the perfect blintz. I've forgotten​​ 

destruction, how it creates​​ 

its own myths and the power​​ 

of powdered sugar. My collapse​​ 

can't come soon enough.​​ 





Gasoline thrown​​ 

on the morning,​​ 


a match to​​ 

its face. You meet


the flame​​ 

like a child lost


in a department​​ 

store. Everything


will take your hand​​ 

and draw back,


seared. Flesh,​​ 

a thin notion


of whatever pain​​ 

likes to live beneath


it. One and then one​​ 

and then two follow


you. They are trying​​ 

to understand


what it is to smolder​​ 

without being


completely consumed,​​ 

what it means to etch


the edges of whatever​​ 

will become ash


after the counting.   




Houses are only so many sticks​​ 

you place your flimsy dreams​​ 


to bed in, until somebody teaches

the match to seek love. Was it you?


Another name for collusion is tomorrow,​​ 

and tomorrow wears its foreign stamp


collection, never being delivered.​​ 

The croaking alphabet forgets its


begging, but the mouth shape becomes​​ 

habit, a kiss never delivered. No one


is going to stop you from staring,​​ 

but the same can happen to you. Shadow


contours in the edges of the built façade​​ 

you’ve scurried behind – you might


consider a relative you can blink​​ 

at. What flirtation. Everything


is forgiven if it happens at home,​​ 

but even forgiveness can burn.  




History is an unfolding

of ironies too painful

to bear, like

the predatory cats

replaced by sabre-

toothed bankers,

stripes all coordinated

in their shiny suits.

One category of distrust

is snorting a pile of dust

in the closet before

it burdens Nero

with a fiddle. Imagine

the sweetest meats,

reserved for the most plodding,

their febrile brows

aching to be filled.

It's like an ocean

in miniature,

all the waves waving,

open then lost.

Meat between the teeth

a set of simple strings.​​ 


Tony Mancus is the author of a handful of chapbooks. He lives with his wife Shannon and three yappy cats in Colorado and serves as chapbook editor for Barrelhouse.

CL Bledsoe is the author of seventeen books, most recently the poetry collection King of Loneliness and the novel The Funny Thing About… He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter and blogs at (with Michael Gushue).