The World Did Change for All

Easy targets all of us who
sit and write with our hands
who hate the rest and don’t
even care if Marie Antoinette
with her big hair and confounded
beauty mark and the infernal
let them eat.
Cakes and Cakes and Cakes
is no longer ready to fulfill your every
catering desire. After an emergency meeting,
the events committee has hired Scott Munson
to realize its singular culinary vision:
a nine foot, Kenny Rogers Bundt cake,
custom made for the twelfth anniversary
company picnic. Completion: next Tuesday.
Never mind that we’ve barely recovered
from team building at the alternate history
theme park (where dinosaurs fought in the
Civil War), or the continuing scourge of
funky hat Friday. Participation
is always mandatory. And someone in
accounts receivable just whispered
“That’s why I started to drink.”
Heineken after Heineken, trying to keep up with you.
The Motel 8 sign burned in the distance
as I left the bar and I walked up Main
knowing you were on your knees
in the back alley, retching blood
into a puddle of rainwater and antifreeze.
I came here for comfort,
clambering up muddy banks
from the far reaching
River of Misery
desperate for rest,
for the comfort of darkness,
but the lights will not go out.  
Your cold, chiseled eyes stare into my hollowed ones
      I am exposed
my black and blue, spoiled flesh
stretched tight across my sagging breasts
my swelling womb

you come at me with your fist
I focus on the gold band
       choking your finger below the knuckle
you tear at the rubber one strangling the fold of my arm
        a superficial vein risen and waiting
this time I do not try to stop you
       out there the storm rages on

hastily filling the streets with dirty water

a muddy Nile cutting through the entire parish.

Nobody was aware of who was left behind.

Everyone should have heard the warning sirens.

The latest refugees climbed atop their roof bringing

living room furniture with them.

A woman fretfully knit in her rocking chair

and the man passed out on the couch.

And the man took a little walk down the street.
And the man noticed the store all lit up

with pianos inside, their lids open.
And the man was still shaking from last night.

And the man had many last nights. So many
that there had never even been a first.

And the man wondered if he had ever been born.
And the man wished he’d stolen a gun.

And the man wished he hadn’t stolen a gun.
When he was a boy he imagined himself

sliding down the blade of a knife, like a slide.
Or sliding into himself, like when his mother

dropped a stick of butter into the blazing pan.
Sometimes the iron would turn white. Mostly

the iron would smoke like a father in a tin shack.
Sometimes the tin shack would be a woman.

Nobody owned either of them. Sometimes
the woman would become a bag full of sand.

And the man could never wear enough coats
to keep him warm. And the man forgot to say

Oh Jesus. Sometimes the woman would turn
into boiling water—the kind you pour into an ear.

And the man always kept his head tilted to the side.
And when the man passed out on the couch

somebody took something from him. The woman
was the piece of rebar that smashed his teeth

on the first day of fourth grade. The woman
was the baseball bat that knocked his brother

to the ground. The woman was the rusty nail.
The woman was a hailstone. And the man hoped

to never see her again, which wasn’t possible.
There were no natural predators there

where the man slept on the couch.

The one stolen from the black bear,
who was not up to the same challenges
as the moose out to stop the election.
The one all about change.

The moose was unsuccessful.
The world did change for all,
except the Greenland Shark that ate a hook

caught in the lip of a fish that snapped the line
of an Eskimo’s fishing pole. Dragged
off the ice, he started calling out his sons’
names, the chant a Biblical litany
of personal history, and, as he turned
to say goodbye to the ghost of his wife,
we rescued him in our boat where he found
the body of the shark, dead, emptied out,
killed by the hook, we opened him up
and found a hooker still alive.
We called her Sex under all
that panic strung from the rafters
like fluorescent cobwebs.
Sex recounted her hours
in dog years, a cheap-thrill history
with no political endorsements.
Viewer discretion advised:
Sex was swallowed whole
at the age of nine, surviving
on parasites, World War II penicillin,
and Dramamine as she rebuilt
a reputation for herself as the woman
in the ivory hourglass corset. By ten,
Sex was an organ donor for a boy
born without a nervous system.
After surgery, Sex was prescribed
chimpanzee endorphins for swelling
as she practiced her heart arrhythmia.
And despite her body still going
through the rough motions like a drunk
on a vinyl dance floor doing the electric slide
and trying to get a feel for gravity,
at 13, Sex was drugged to death and smothered
with a flannel, tired costume of grunge, strained
Cobanian melodies, churning of power chords lubricating
the space between consciousness and orgasm, between needle
out and needle in. Sex wasn’t a promiscuous teen, or an unwed
mother. Sex just needed a change of air and underwear,
a somewhere over the rainbow place to skip rope and open up
her own lemonade stand not stranded at an abandoned
tea party on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel caving in
and out and in again. Reach up and touch God’s fluctuating
face, so high with senses titillating undulating, unable
to see what she’s been told to believe is there.
Vermin, cretins, critics lend me your eyes! I’ll pay
a pound of flesh for your senses should you choose
to sell them. We first erase any mental reservation
auditory, olfactory, gustatory, query: do you feel
a tenseness in your kinesthesia? The undertaker prepares
an overripe funeral in your scrambled brain, child becomes
a man becomes a tree becomes a cross becomes a belief
called to question. Even at that age, the crucifixion was a comedy –
signs of the stigmata in macaroni and cheese, dyed red,
worn around the neck, sometimes belly button candy,
globular. She was a playmate from Kentucky
who knew Mel Gibson was anti-Semantic.

Who knew Mel Gibson was anti-Semitic?
Who remained to care
after the gas chambers    after the war    after the fact?
So long ago    ancient history   passion recanted.
He never realized gold teeth saved souls
Or that skin sliced from the bone made great lampshades
which we loved for their thickness, the lamps themselves
of sticks and feathers, held with wax. The bulbs were Caribbean
roots we stole. We kept them in the freezer with the chicken
costumes and chicken, ice slippers for moon-health parties. All
the real skin is taken from frozen geese.

Not some prickling flayed experiment of goose-

scratch shirt, but their breath—the last huff

like a magician's trick. The birth-shroud drops

from their lungs, trapping us half-foolish,

wrapped in yearning. Cold baptism, creation's

continent dazzling with its arctic pelt

of snow. (Myth-talker, how you bring it on.)

I think the Eskimos use the fur

away. The augers to carve, the walls

against the cold, the snow to stack, the ice.

The mountain winds, the cars no longer green.

A collaborative poem by Pamela R. Anderson, Alexandra Bentayou, Alyssa Berthiaume, Mary Biddinger, Tara Broeckel-Ooten, Alex Cox, Frank DePoole, Wayne Elliott, Susan Grimm, Shurice Gross, Jennifer Hoffman, Sestina Kappel, Joel Lee, Dave Materna, Eric M. Morris, and Jeremy Sayers (NEOMFA, Craft & Theory: Poetry of the Unexpected)