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June 20, 2018 Poetry

Three Poems

Tom Kelly

Three Poems photo

Saturday Afternoon Twilight Zone

With the bobby pin I’ve kept beneath my tongue all morning,
my fingers spring the lock to my parent’s bedroom

where mom’s cherry lipstick glows beneath a seashell lamp.
The babysitter calls me but trails off mid-vowel & I grab

the thumb-length tube, unscrewing the cylindrical top.
When the door-bell rings, she skips outside to pay for a pizza,

my incisors nibble red wax, & like a tiger shark frenzied
by its first whiff of blood, I devour a smorgasbord

of diamond bracelets, Rolexes, poker chips, glass elephants,
cellphone chargers, & multi-color X-mas bulbs, wedging

a grandfather clock down my throat. In the TV room,
subwoofers blare a blockbuster’s credit role & I swallow them

along with the top-shelf liquor cabinet & Answering Machine
repeating my name. By the time tires peel off the curb

& my sitter enters the hall, I’ve eaten through roof tile,
not to mention Earth’s gravitational handbook, & a blimp ad

for Nicholas Cage. Floating above the cul-de-sac,
I burp for good luck & my jaws crank wide to chomp

the sun like a crocodile crunching an atom bomb.

Rocket Ship in the Backlot of Joe’s Steak Shack

Piper & I race to the sand dune’s edge & kick up grit
in the silver moonglow, our windbreakers flailing

like the trigger-hand of some wannabe hotrod
robbing a nursing home on a dare. I flip a zippo,

burn a Pall-Mall picked from the pack with my teeth,
& motion to a rusted trailer flanked by a fallen

chain link fence, a headless mannequin sloped
on a flickering Coca-Cola vending machine.

In the backlot, Piper spies the jittery old wingnut
buffing his homemade interstellar stallion,

the dented stack of sheet metal & satellite array
he’s always yakking about at Ned’s diner

on Tuesday nights, his pencil-drawn blueprints
showcased to every gullible do-gooder & dunce

suckered into playing checkers near the pond.
I steady my Polaroid’s lens searching for his patched

sailor cap, his bomber jacket that gleams with mock
medals & ribbons fashioned from candy wrappers

& safety pins, the seaweed tangle of beard,
eager to snap souvenirs for the blue-haired girl

in my study hall. We creep closer, our shadows
passing over sage, but stumble when echoes

of clank & crack & a slow roar shudder the hills,
& like weathervanes ripped off rooftops, we whip

around to the first pop of flame, frozen debris raining
on tumbleweeds, & my camera flashes at a smoky trail

to Alpha Centauri, as Captain Wingnut soars
into a Coca-Cola sky’s glassy darkness,

no doubt bound for that planet where merit
is measured by coordinates on a checkerboard.

22nd Century Nightmare of Holiday Shopping for a Zygote

You drag me past the food court & toy store
          with a home teleportation pad display
to a coin-operated dispenser shaped
          & modified like a chrome gumball machine
filled with cryogenic hailstones that contain
          the future’s all-star mathletes,
corrupt radio hosts, medal-of honor
          infantry, black market milk peddlers, and third place
pageant finalists, except right now
          they resemble unremarkable baby plankton
without pedigrees or spinal cords.

          For a limited time, they’re marked down
to twenty-five cents with a tax
          deduction & complimentary Ebola vaccine;
customers uncomfortable with childbirth
          can choose from surrogates like the Alaskan
Survivalist & Bay Area Artistic Clairvoyant
          for the cost of turbo-speed taco delivery. I faceplant
on a joke comparing DNA to a giftbag
          packed with ferrets or an exploding bouquet
of roses & you point to a menu of popular customizations
          available before incubation: undisclosed fear
of movie theaters, expert ping-pong player,
          early affinity for fireflies, a habit of sneaking out
during thunderstorms to tightrope walk
          the city’s powerlines. You feed a coin

into the receptacle, crank the dial, select
          Mystery Option B, & my gut freefalls
like an anvil through a chapel, as if the possibility
          of this new-fangled embryonic cell
slapped a chokehold around my agency.
          I reach for your hand & you hand me your purse
& a frozen orb tornadoes down the chute,
          your cupped palms padding the descent
gentle as a paleontologist cradling the last dinosaur egg.
          As I study our newest family member,
the casing cracks & you tell me to say hello;
          an ill-formed tentacle shooting through the ice
gestures a wave & latches to my wrist.


image: Aaron Burch