8.03 / March 2013

Three Poems

Crocodiles in Real Life

listen to this poem

The zoo did not prepare me.
Captive crocodiles are dry.
You see the whole reptile:
bulk, scales, teeth. You know
they can kill you, but the cage
keeps you calm.

As we motor the sailboat
to dock at Puerto Armeulles
through a narrow channel
between many tiny islands,
we miss the timing of the tide;
mud grabs and holds the keel.

We are stuck waiting
as the boat tilts closer and closer
toward murky shallows.

Cesar mentions cocodrilo
when he pisses over the side.
The four of us sit on the high hull,
six hundred pounds against gravity,
hoping to keep the bare mast in air.
I see swerving ripples. There?

No, here! Those bubbles
are really eyes. A bit of back,
a pattern of solid brown sliding
through brown water. Seeing only pieces
gives the illusion the crocodiles
are smaller, playing a harmless game
of hide and seek. Tense, we stop speaking
until the tide comes, slowly nudging
the sloop until it levels up to float.

Cesar tosses a chicken carcass. At once,
giant Mesozoic jaws fly up and snap.
I imagine: my arm, my leg.

Devil’s Food Cake

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After your birthday, you vanished.
Maybe when you blew out the candles
the cake inhaled and swallowed
you whole, sucking you through thick
vanilla cream frosting into the devil’s food.
Maybe you are screaming to be let out
and no one can hear you through flour,
sugar, eggs, and sour milk. Maybe
the devil is holding your tongue
while you think bloody brown thoughts.
Maybe you are waiting for me to rescue you
with a knife, gently cutting away your prison
crumb by crumb. Maybe you fear growing
stale and getting slopped to the goats.

Maybe you have befriended the devil
and are learning magic tricks inside the cake,
happy with his company and your own thoughts.
Maybe you are eating tunnels, like an ant farm.
Maybe this was the metamorphosis you always
yearned for, and you are practicing qi gong
surrounded by the perfect porous substance
to make you aware of every decision and move.
Maybe you will pop out of the cake
at a devil convention and shuck your clothes.
Maybe you are gloating, having shook me at last.
Maybe you do not want to come back.
Maybe you are standing behind me
watching me cry over a cake baked by the devil.

How to Eat a Gun

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At the FBI convention,
the placemat souvenirs
are milk chocolate guns.

One gun gets through
Utah’s airport security
in my friend’s pocket.

Like an Easter bunny,
it has a sculpted, detailed side,
and one that is flat and blank.

Some put the barrel deep
into their mouths and bite.
Others nibble up the handle.

I start with what breaks first:
the trigger. After that melts,
the rest will be sweet.

Sara Backer, author of the novel American Fuji, has recently published poems in A-Minor Magazine, Blueline, Ellipsis, and Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. She has lived in Costa Rica and Japan, and is obsessed with the dark side of chocolate. For more info: http://www.sarabacker.com.