Premature Death as Albums Sales Strategy and other poems

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Premature Death as Album Sales Strategy

When Maury opens his manila envelope
and says, “You are NOT the father,”
I’m going to do the Christ-like thing
and refrain from dancing atop the fresh
grave of my former lover with a mouth
full of fuck all y’alls.  In the falsetto glow
of newfound sainthood, I stroll down
to Red’s IGA and kiss all the black-eyed
bagboys back to life.  My mother has
discovered the most humane method
for snapping a finch’s neck on the cover
of this month’s Better Homes & Gardens:
It helps to hum, fellow betterment-seekers.
It helps to think of oneself as the sole survivor
of an airline crash over the Peruvian
rainforest and the bird as a glowstick.
I say the true mark of humanity lies not
in that simple act of destruction, but in
the ability to maintain a quiet dignity
as one’s own neck is slowly broken
by the inevitable wreath of finches.
I invite the inevitable wreath of finches,
I say, like a three-week coma, a vacation.
On the shelves, the blood sings
to the ceiling from jars more than eager
to crack. But I’m as still as a lake,
face down on a gurney as the hooks
are removed from its back.

First Sonnet for Colin Jewell

Despite the patient’s passing we declared
the surgery a success so graceful
was its performance with the lesions
scrubbed we read aloud the account of a piano
hacked and reduced to firewood as a reminder
of our own comparative fortune there was
affection in the way the kite string strangled
the power line a perfection in the deaf child
napping at the foot of the turntable we welcomed
a lethargy thick enough to bury our rhetoric in
and let the room gut itself for a change
let the sun burn down the heirlooms like it did
our mother when she stood on the shore
and hurled a handful of pills into the ocean

Second Sonnet for Colin Jewell

Decade of everything thrown from the balcony
decade of everything spelled like it sounds
the divide between the number of bad post-apocalyptic
films and actual apocalypses grows wider by the day
mid-August and we’ve shown up to our court-mandated
singing lessons drunk again no surprise the new disease
is easier to cure than pronounce the air is pregnant
with birdsong the sun is wrapped in gauze but everyone’s
inside circled around the radio collecting the static
in Mason jars and charting the myriad uses of muteness
until someone looks up from their notebook
and says tell me again what’s the word
for when you throw open a medicine cabinet to reveal
a window overlooking a village in flames

The West

 I stumble into the saloon,
an arrow jutting from my chest.

Ah! exclaims the sheriff,
hanging his coat on it.

Poem for Pyotr Verzilov

Any young anarchist collective worth its salt
can find some cause for staging a public orgy,
though history teaches us that maintaining
an erection in the presence of amateur photographers
and men with clubs is substantially more difficult
than feigning a minor knee injury under similar
circumstances.  Still, the determined penises resist
complete deflation, climbing slowly from their trenches
bearing the age-old wisdom of waiting room
inspirational posters and high school football coaches:
No one ever said you couldn’t be afraid.
You just can’t let that stop you.  And I am afraid,
with the sky like a faulty attic hatch threatening
to dump its dead right here in the living room
as we watch the wind prepare for its next big stunt
on the six o’clock news.  Tell me, Pop, if I let them
nail me up there like some bare, seasonless wreath,
will it really get everyone clean for good?  Mark,
with his missing E string and shop-at-home knives?
Matthew, with his bottomless closet of paint fumes
and erotic visions of Jamie Lee Curtis, circa 1978?
They can doctor anything now.  In tomorrow’s
retrospective, the fire is painted onto the couches
and our melting answering machine prayers
are looped through the PA. The program refers
to it as a routine, the way we crouch behind
headstones in drug store masks, waiting
for the sound of approaching wagons (our cue).
But there’s no mention of nodding off in the idle
hours only to wake mumbling and dew-soaked,
the sun a kick sincere as blood.  The faint buzz
of a push mower lies just out of frame,
and it too is a song in praise of singing.

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