Well Boys I Think Our Work Here is Done
The last taste on my tongue will be sweet potato. My thoughts will be of fancy hotels named after classy women; of flint arrowheads and terracotta soldiers; the difference between earwigs and silverfish. Sandstorms. Sea monsters. All the things I won’t discover. And I will look up at the moon and I will be afraid, but I will know that this world was once home to great things like redwood forests and pickle barrels, tubas and Judy Garland. My eyes will film over; there will be a crash. I will be flung into space and I will try to think of myself as a ragdoll rather than a trash bag. I will look down and see the lights of the Vegas Strip in the middle of the big cold desert, and I will taste sweet potato, and I will be fine.
My Nephew Makes His Own Lipstick
My brother, fearful
of other fathers’ stories of sons parading in stolen pearls,
denies my nephew
a game of beauty parlor.
Now he sits in the kitchen
with a jar of slick cherries, splits them open one by one, and devises.
Bonaparte Run Aground
For now he’s sitting on an ugly beach-
wearing a big hat, pursing his lips;
talking strategy with himself.
Hudson! My cape! Hudson! My sabre!
He still has a butler in his mind.
He closes his eyes and meditates
on what we see with our eyes,
with our minds- And what if
we all were blind?
On the verge of transcendence,
he’s interrupted by a spray
of saltwater, and scrounges
for the English equivalents
of mer and merde. He yelps:
Is there no handkerchief for me,
is there no chocolate? His jailer,
everywhere always but helpless
always, too, can see he’ll soon be dead.
Doctors and devotees will weep
into his bellybutton like his mother
over his father, like the mermaid
over her prince in a different ending.
In the Before Picture I Looked So Happy
I wore sneakers to my first ballet class,
though I don’t recall if it was because
my mother wouldn’t buy me slippers
or I wouldn’t wear them.
I was the only one with black tights;
the only one who cried.
Something off about the lights
and the drama of the music-
the pain in my foot, sharp and unfamiliar,
every time I’d jump.