10.3 / May & June 2015

Three Poems


Ciara Calls Off Engagement to Future After He Cheated

—Us Weekly headline, 8/13/14

Isn’t it always like this? At the start
it’s chocolates, then a 15-carat ring
and you’re locked in: what will your Future bring?
Turns out, a baby and a broken heart.
Well, he can’t play you like that—you’re too smart.
You’ll hit the gym, go back to modeling,
and when the world is at your feet, you’ll sing.
The record of your heartbreak tops the chart.

But baby Future wants his Pops again,
and nightly crying spoils your beauty sleep.
Sometimes the mask beneath your mask won’t keep
the skeleton concealed beneath the skin.
Then the doorbell, and you smell something sweet:
chocolates in hand, it’s Future, that old cheat.

Tuneless Numbers

1. Spiritual Fruit

This poem takes its refrain from a church bulletin board in Columbus, Ohio.

God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts
God wants free will and devotion, not ifs ands or buts
God wants creeds and catechisms, God wants discipline
God wants gated gardens where the riffraff won’t get in
God wants numbers, God wants names to fill the Book of Life
God wants a man to be a man, and Eve to be his wife
God wants Christian modesty—no birth control, no sluts
God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts

God’s transgressive, God’s a hippy, God wants our free love
one holy catholic energy we’re all vibrations of
God wants Bach and Palestrina, God wants Kumbaya
God wants Alpha and Omega, Yahweh and Allah
God wants titles, God wants rings, God wants the Superbowl
God wants psalms rung darkly de profundis in the soul
God wants alleluias raised like incense from our huts
God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts

God wants Isaac and the knife—psych! God says nevermind
God wants Job to foul himself with dust, bereft and blind
God wants vengeance, God wants mercy, God wants to go steady
God wants us to stand and wait and get to work already!
God wants alms for the indigent, gold for the Vatican
vows of service, vows of silence, vows of Yes We Can
God wants hair shirts, circumcisions, death by a thousand cuts
God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts

God wants economic growth, and wealth to trickle down
God wants to see the waters rise and watch the witches drown
God wants Grand Inquisitors, crusades, and infidels
roasting in the furnaces of underground motels
God wants Creation to bow down and time to be no more
the horsemen and the Dragon and the end of peace and war
God wants guts and glory, and God wants blood and guts
God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts

God wants stylites, scourges, Solomons and celibates
perverts, prophets, Borgias, burkhas, holy idiots
with excommunication for the you-know-whos and -whats
God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts

2. Space Available

Now Jeffrey stuffed the corpse in his sedan,
soon as he found his drinking buddy dead,
then took his wallet, poured one out for Stan,
and paid a stripper to sit on his head.
They nabbed him where the chain of charges led:
Burrito Barn, mid-nachos, pretty drunk.
What was he thinking? He just shrugged and said,
Anyone can fit inside a trunk.

The theme was Wild Things. She was lean and tan,
in a tight dress, her lipstick Jungle Red,
redolent of musk and marzipan.
But she preferred the college kids instead.
Rejection. Then the knife. And as she bled,
the moon’s pale bulb was cut off with a thunk.
Away in a new limousine they sped.
Anyone can fit inside a trunk.

Winnie Ruth Judd was fighting for a man.
She won. She found a cleaver in the shed
(those were big women) and she hatched a plan:
pack, stow, and ship them; have deposited.
She showed up at the platform, but soon fled:
her baggage was too heavy, and it stunk.
No loopholes for the well-built or well-fed:
anyone can fit inside a trunk.

One question stalks the lofty and low-bred,
and that’s “Do I feel lucky?” Do you, punk?
Repeat potential is unlimited.
Anyone can fit inside a trunk.

3. Duct Tape: An Ode

“Duct tape fixes everything!”
quoth Brockport Student Government.
“Make a wallet! Make a ring!
Make a rainproof silver tent!”
There’s nothing, nothing it can’t do:
duct tape a tux or dress for prom!
Or, if your crush rejected you,
a duct-taped box looks like a bomb!
Kids at naptime won’t pipe down?
Duct-tape them to sleepy town!
Duct tape can make a nude man king—
Duct tape fixes everything.

          Duct tape is amazing!
          Duct tape is a sublime
          instrument of hazing,
          accessory of crime!

Got an unregistered vehicle?
Duct tape! Duct tape is the greatest:
just tape your plates and skip the toll.
Or try this frame-up: snag a sadist
with pain pills, duct tape, and rough sex;
enjoy a beating with a thong,
then call the cops and blame your ex!
Trust me: nothing will go wrong.
Ski-mask lost? Here’s a disguise:
duct tape will hide your face and eyes!
Although the aftermath may sting,
duct tape fixes everything.

          Close an open gash!
          Heal an unsightly wart!
          Secure your cocaine stash
          or a case that holds up in court!
          Rip it at night and a spark
          will wink with a sudden blue,
          or tie up a friend in the dark
that’s what you’re into.

“Duct tape is America!”
a congressman makes bold to brag
of an oil pipe patched in Ouachita
with duct tape and a garbage bag.
A man born woman hates the rack
he duct-tapes down in secret rage
till the blisters weep on his breasts and back,
while Sappho sings on the New York stage
and yanks duct tape from her naked skin,
setting the griefs she’s swaddled in
free in her aria to ring.
Duct tape fixes everything.

          Duct tape your heart with ice cream!
          Duct tape your food with bacon!
          Duct tape your sagging cross-beam
          and pray that you awaken.
          Duct tape yourself together,
          you can survive most weather;
          but use it on a heating duct,
          you’re fucked, fucked, fucked.

A bride too big for her wedding dress
in a duct-tape corset walks and beams;
duct tape in all their crevices
binds tires and rest homes at the seams.
Laid off, her father getting worse,
with aging leaflets Angelique
duct-taped her first designer purse:
segue to a Detroit boutique.
And, in a moonlit field, a tent
sleeps silver under the firmament.
Get up, untape the flap, and fling.
Duct tape fixes everything.

Krypton Had Its Chance!

There’s only one way this ends, Kal—either you die, or I do!
—General Zod, Man of Steel

Isn’t that two ways? Superman might have said
if he were Spiderman; but he just scowls
fixedly as a cardboard figurehead
while Zod breaststrokes the CGI skyscraper,
too messianic to make jokes, too super,
what with the godly pects and skyrise jowls.
Still, Zod was right. Someday they’ll both be dead.

It’s not an S! In my world it means ‘hope,’
he informs Lois, referring to, I guess,
our longing for an alien philanthrope
to shoot out of the sky and free us from
the aliens besieging Christendom
and our own longing. Well, here it’s an S,
Lois replies. A gratifying trope:

the smitten immigrant who joins the fight
for his new home; the democratic cog
who keeps his superpowers out of sight;
the individualist whose supreme ease
is down to his innate abilities;
the juggernaut who loves the underdog.
It’s all American as Miller Lite,

especially that symbol we can fill
like a red cup with anything we want.
Look at him, how the G-force of his will
ripples his face as he flies up the gut
of the World Engine, to give it you know what:
spiritual warfare raging on his front,
fist raised, with bulging neck, fighting uphill

and yelling in the earth-compacting beam.
Thrilling, perhaps, but what’s it symptom of?
Something to do with freedom and the dream
that there’s a Superman in each of us,
that we could be both strong and virtuous?
Or is it that we might deserve his love?
Prince Charming with heat rays, mise en abyme

of centuries of feckless fantasizing,
mirror whose magic is all CGI.
It doesn’t matter what disguise he flies in,
the fairy tale is mortal to the core,
with Zod the brother evil bringing war
out of the heartland’s interstellar sky,
where fear and certainty ring the horizon.

But why choose us instead? We’re not so good
that x-ray eyes won’t see through and convict us.
Why love us? Why repudiate his blood,
why bow (though love’s a mystery) to serve
his impotent tormentors, and preserve
the doubt and dogma written in the rictus
of our rapaciousness? He never would,

he never would, though when his silhouette
blasts from the Pole, or rises with the score
to catch a flaming oil rig, or a jet,
the heart soars with him; and when he comes flying
to embrace Lois, give comfort to the dying,
and spirit all the saved to the far shore.
No, no, he never would. And yet—and yet—

Christopher Childers has poems, essays, and translations published or forthcoming from Agni, PN Review, Parnassus, and elsewhere, and has been a finalist for the Ruth Lilly Fellowship. For Penguin Classics he is translating a volume of Greek and Latin Lyric Poetry from Archilochus to Martial.
10.3 / May & June 2015