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October 5, 2017 | Poetry

Three Poems

Perry Janes

Three Poems photo

Of the Many Reasons I Love You, Here Is One

          titled with line by Craig Arnold

You halt the flow of traffic in a crosswalk to retrieve a fallen penny,
cheer your good fortune, and whisper: landmine

You invent exotic dances named The Jellyfish and Solar System,
undulate inside down-stuffed coats and fur-brimmed ushankas

to perform your patented dress tease. When contemplating
the future, you suggest we open

a restaurant that serves pill-sized meals
called Xan-snacks and Vali-yum!

Here’s my mea culpa: I don’t know what to do
with moments like these but revel, again, in the way

you re-cut each speech’s figure, so changed
even the warbled gloom of broadcast news—

which, like a cry shuffled into too-small shoes laced tight,
is its own expression in need of deciphering—can’t spoil

your birthday celebration, the anchors cooing sadly
over chocolate frosted candles when you coin the term

Ocake as in: 1.( adj): Opaque because of a cake in the way.
The corner store is the apothecary of bottled sadness.

The arcade's café, The Ol' Factory of Memories.
Dear—

For years, I sought to break the silence
sewn through me. My City: The Monument to Mechanic Failure.

My Home: The Dog Star of Politely Concealed Truths.
Your language, a strangely tongued translation,

stepped freely from The Path of Accepted Norms toward
The Liberation of Surprise. There is no feeling I prize more

than your fingers at my sleeve in morning's gloaming hours
but there's more than one way to skin

a man. A friend tells me: Any form of expression is just
approximation
. Each day, we are approximating

a weird and wondrous language. Love. Turn away
from the misery of nightly news. I will choreograph

a revolutionary new dance named The Geriatric Hoedown
just for you. I will cry strange pleasures

using only onomatopoeia. Together, we will overrun
the world's quiet despair. We will live

our exclamations, senseless 
in all the right ways.

 

In a Dark Theater I Contemplate Grief and Cognitive Psychology
or, Elegy with Birdman

In the middle of the movie, I heard you were dead. Heard
one friend lean over to another friend and whisper: Did you read
about Clara? Pills, I guess.
On the twelve-foot screen,

a mascaraed starlet mugged, sultry, for the camera.
Wide eyes. Pale scars. Irreparably fucked up.
Clara, I'm sorry. This is how I think of you.

And maybe there's no justice. Maybe we're forever falling victim
to some sketch of former self. Clara. I never knew you. Or why
you were sad. Why a person would step into the foaming breach of pain

pills and pain pills. In the middle of the Sunday paper, your face
flashed its grin from the obituary section. A full-page spread. I imagine
your parents must have paid. Clara. We could have been friends. Maybe

that would have made the difference you needed. Maybe
this is all about me. How, once, I ran a knife's edge
along my carpals—bones rolling on the blade—and I thought

of logs in water. There's so little left to us, isn't there? In the middle
of the night, sometimes, I think about you. How you caught me
in the hall, fresh from a dust-up with some other schoolmate,

and laid your palm against my forehead. Or didn't. Maybe
memory is equal parts imagination. Clara. Let's be clear.
I didn't like you. How easily I could picture

the kohl on your eyes and the rips in your shirt
broadcasting your particular brand of anguish and feel
myself aroused. To find this echo: the pretty wound

I once sought to salve, the boy in me
printed on my person. I read recently
what happens during adolescence assumes

a seat of power in the brain: a literal, corneal glow.
Isn't that fucked up? That you'll always be
the screwed up chick with two dead-eyed punks

locked to your hip, and I'll always be jealous
of their hands? Clara. I can't know now
why I never said hello. Never stopped you in the halls

to flash a grin. Jesus. What an age. All of it
foaming over. Did you think about me, once? How chill
my forehead felt on your fingertips? Maybe I'm the one

projecting. It wasn’t you on the screen. But Clara.
Scientists say the neurons in my brain embalm
these moments to keep them safely sealed.

Isn't that fucked up? That there, in the middle
of the half-filled theater, I could somehow see
your face? That you could smile like that

and walk from the frame?


Obsolescent Ode

            The Hamtramck cafe beyond which
American Axel lays flat, CATs scattered

            among its rubble, their giant fingers
scooping earth from earth—

            here, again, I return
to shell six salvaged quarters

            for coffee at the cash only register
where a woman with elbows

            tattooed in pale pastel
shuffles me my cracked foam cup,

            where I pull my tight-winched gaze
to the overhead lamps, the antique

            butcher's scale slung
from lintel struts, the clock

            hung canted on the wall—
what tenderness I feel

            for the scoop-necked espresso machine
destined to be keepsake, curio,

            the bulldozer dinosaurs
whose directionless appetite dooms them.

            Already, the plant's vats whistle with wind.
Already, the dead possum curls

            in its bulwark. By the cafe window,
furloughed workers culled from the line

            huddle in plumes of menthol smoke.
Here on Holbrook, men

            defined by what they make or take
apart grind time’s slow grist

            through teeth set tight.
Always this question:

            of utility. Never having held
the shape of a leafed through book, or ball-

            point pen, or saliva-wet wires coiled tight,
I cannot say what words may have issued

            from my tongue which, in different hands,
might have felt compelled to speak.

            Once I longed to be lasso, the length of rope
that leads a huff and snort of breath

            to blade, or else to be the flame-
slack steel molded and wrought. Who hasn't longed

            to be shaped by fingers burnt
past callous, past coarse, to gentleness?

            Love: here we are again.
You, as agent. I, as object.

            I object to this ruinous ring, this clattering
carousel where all the horses are metaphors

            for beauty, which is really just desire
(that gap-toothed gape, that open furnace)

            which is loss. Listen. I will take up
this dandelion and dune grass

            conked, coiled. This torn chiffon
veil caught in the boulevard's branches.

            This wont of want, this home, this lack—
call it what you will. God,

            how I longed to be the stripped
screw swiveling on its spit that kept you

            coming back.

 

image: Tara Wray


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