At the movies, the absence of color
means more than bankers are stupid. I wish Shakespeare
were dead isn’t as true
as the feelings I have, sleepy
B for boring Cascadia earthquake
caches rated for music in locked faults. Arguing
with Kisha gets me nowhere
till I write it all down for “Modern
Love.” Look, Lindy, an entry rated E
for everyone, almost. Some lives are inside H
and I, like, Hello, my name is…
I crush berries to dye a cervix rated J
for Jeanette. On the anniversary of her death
Eric sold cigarettes. I stole cacti
for Kisha breathing velvet
intonations, eighth notes in vernal
landscapes, through snow, citizens
come signaling—O Wil, should you eat thy forest
the deer might rook your Force
is enough Disney to last
a month of crystals used thusly; half
space of transformation, or otherwise a more authentic
RS wave from the couch drinking
Fort George Vortex before
killing a bag of chips rated T for then
I beat my tabor blue as sermons one cleaves to
in Pleasure Lake where the air’s
more wicked than amazing. Preacher says,
"What is pure never ends; what is not
is unwelcome." Millions offer thoughts and prayers
against the strain
rate; bodies soil proteins not as shock
but stutter; X's colonies kept
quiet as studies paid for by science social palms caress
the surface waves in fens.
Tremors ace the wreck of all my friends.
in the house of fernandez
Gulfstream horses change
sleep habits of aristocrats digesting
Cornish hens surrounding
fields surrender under pressure
from the river gliding
silent against Floridian futures winked out
like air near the dome’s ceiling
beneath which a blue
scarf saves my seat for the evening race—
Fernandez in a blanket finish!
Can you taste the hunt, the zest? Only the rider
knows where he’s been, where he’s going
is anyone’s guess—
Kumamoto, Mexico, Itoshima.
in the house of frey
I cook all day for dignitaries visiting
from Peacock Lane, their coins
under the table Emily
helped me set. After Sal articulates a world-
view split between finance
and facetiousness the coin pile is severely
diminished, which only increases
our desire to toe the line
for Sal, all Willy Willy train wreck against
Vera’s Mania Rage-Quit.
I can tell Emily can tell
the viscosity of the soup totally breaks
down in my stomach upon realizing that’s
where it is. Pouring a fourth
glass of pigeon blood, Emily says, Life’s
no dress rehearsal. No joke, I say, as though
it’s my river’s turn to flood.
in the house of mccrae
Alexander is the branch, so called
distance from mental
ice palaces for Masters of
the Universe, cops
Cathay. Leaves fall in the light
moths make. What is
love but the person beside you, bare
father-tree within you?
in the house of poppick
People warm themselves with illegal
fires. I bite into my
sandwich. The humming in my ear
increases as the crowd
in the park grows larger. It’s an illusion
the fires look smaller.
Leaving the restaurant, I pass this kid
folding napkins into swans.
"I like your style," I say.
When he ignores me, we become
Richard Pryor, loose
but always in contention.
What a confident child we are,
well-read in satirical versions
of populist tragedies.
Standing in the park, I realize the kid
wasn’t ignoring me, he just
couldn’t hear me over the humming.
Near the fountain, a few deer,
rich with insides different from mine,
but the same, incorporated as I am,
wired to nothing but minted force.
in the house of ross
Despite the trilling sitters
shitting everywhere, everyone’s satisfied
with the robin egg soup.
Intense flirting gives way
to footsy, a few heels to the groin.
Note the pronouns, or lack.
Calming the crowd Margaret warns
against diamonds. Everyone’s
strapped in essence. I pace
the cat-stained carpet reading
letters from friends in Providence.
When they left, the books
on my shelf were not for me,
but for the people in my life. Language
was not my first language.
Earth syndrome. The next bright
day without leaves birds fly into
glass with such frequency
I’ll hear you from your faraway place.
in the house of schiff
Your microfiber is more germ-
free than mine
at least until the ash trees
thwart he she
syllables weigh less than breath
a tribute to your face is
shaped like mine
that Wil and Sacha are twin
songs I can no longer
distinguish soul’s ascent from
cardinals startling the ash tree’s cold
advice: have children
in the house of schlegel
Into very specific parts of her body
the names of animals. Beetle
to kneecap. Snake to palm. Steam
rises between buildings
where I read The Best American
Alligator to elbow. Dolphins reveal
their grief more than
I reveal mine. Kisha’s favorite animal
has the face of a suicide.
in the house of simonds
On the corner of 3rd & Centaur
I find Sandman in a salmon-colored, single-story
ranch, through which kids move
like sprites warmed
by a stove, the likes of which I haven’t
seen since home. Geese
in the yard flap against Florida. I read their faces
to calm the baby badger grooming
inside me. When the musician
arrives, I’m intimidated to no end—
I act casual amidst all the coke
and gin—he asks what he can do
to make me feel. But aren’t you the Father
of Bad, I say. Before he can answer,
Sandman says, The Sierras are far less spectacular
when you’re in them.
in the house of twemlow
Brooke holds baby Heath like a heavy
loaf Ronnie rubs cubes of
ice over. Outside
the stars are a disaster.
play at our feet—their tiny bones
mechanized by wire
and tendon. Brooke dresses
Heath in a blue polo,
corduroys cinched by a tiny
black belt. Ronnie grabs a wad
of Heath’s blond,
hoists him up like a trophy
for all of us to hear.
"Harrow, harrow," Heath says, protesting
beauty. Long gone, Brooke
is felt in the lightning of where
we live in mere fidelity to narrative.
Rob Schlegel is the author of The Lesser Fields (Center for Literary Publishing) and January Machine (Four Way Books). With Daniel Poppick and Rawaan Alkhatib he co-edits The Catenary Press.