*Image: “Alegría 4” by Vivian Calderón Bogoslavsky
Jonathan Louis Duckworth
How soothing to picture
my grandfather planted like a seed
in the crust
of the other continent
we call the older one
or as the nebula of white air
escaping my mouth
when winter brings its chill.
But in my dream he is neither.
He is the lone pedestrian
rolling the blue predawn
Brussels streets under his shoes
like loose carpeting,
he climbs into bed next
to my sleeping grandmother,
finds his seam & pulls it
to unravel his tainted skin,
eluding cancer’s walking rot,
organs & entrails unspooling
onto the bedspread,
rivers that make a body leaching
into a mattress that thrums
with two heartbeats.
Slipstream of Consciousness
& now they say there is another Earth-sized
rock (in a distant part of space where, according
to ragged, washed out radio waves more
hiss than “hmm,” FDR is still the president)
that’s the right distance from its star to support life.
This is what I’m telling the highway patrolman
as he’s presenting me with my speeding ticket—
that on a universal or even trans-stellar level
the difference between two double-digit speeds
matters as much as a caterpillar sneezing
in Tibet—which isn’t even a country anymore,
except in some remote belt of the long dark
where Gunsmoke is still the #1 show on the air
& the “communist menace” still wants us all dead.
“From now on, just slow down,” he says,
but how can I ever slow down when the ground
beneath me is hurtling at 460 meters a second?
A figure which, Officer, you would understand
if we lived in a civilized country that didn’t
base all of its spatial measurements on a polynomic
function of the length of some long-dead
king’s gouty toes & wart-encrusted shaft.
(x2/2x + 8, if you’re curious, Officer,
with ‘X’ as shaft length, of course)
& now the next day a friend is telling me
I should calm down, try deep breathing exercises,
& I tell her that’s a great idea; I’ll just be here, fetal
on the smoldering asphalt, ear to the world’s chest,
listening to the continental plates ramming
each other with all the speed of two corpses.
What I’ve learned by 25.
America built concrete towers
to imprison her loudest ghosts.
In the lowest ocean trench
or on the highest mountain peak
the moon is always exactly one unit
The plastic caps on shoelaces
are called aglets.
are the most capitalist animals.
History hasn’t repeated itself
if everyone’s forgotten history.
The monster that once haunted
my closet has a day job now
& it doesn’t pay him enough
to keep him in the apartment he hates.
Dreams are 80% hydrogen
& 20% argon. Nightmares contain
traces of neon.
There are little bits of German
from college classes—umlauts & such—
still wedged in my molars.
My parents will always be
exactly one unit of too-old.
The mind is separate from the brain—
the mind is a copper box
with a complicated circuit of mirrors inside
trapping the white flash of hospital light
that first seared my eyes open.
I have forgotten how
to close my third eye around company.
A zebra is in fact not a horse
that went through a rebellious phase.
As a species
we won’t be happy until
locate & contact the aliens
that will human us into extinction.
It’s not that I don’t like tank-tops
it’s that tank-tops don’t like me.
When in light-polluted cities
I always suspect the stars
are up to something.
I feel most homesick
when I’m at home.
Witches are real & most of them
are trying to quit smoking.
I am not a Netflix & Chill
type & never will be.
Tomatoes are fruits, get over it.
The branch will not break
under my feet
if it’s already fallen to the ground.
Petitioning Congress to officially change
the plural of moose to “meese”
is very low-priority, but still a priority.
On the banks of the Styx
Charon won’t accept our credit cards.
is like a 30-minute porno
in the sense you want to skip
through 75% of it.
I fall in love with women
who are exactly one unit
of not-interested; my love
is a one-winged moth;
my love is not in vain,
my love is not in vain.
My future will never stop
More than being there / This quale of you
I’ll dissolve in sweat gilding your shoulder
Sunblock, avocado handcrème, that waft
of sebum / The Sphinx
smashed her own nose to escape bondage
to redolence of another now lost to sand
My ears rudded
like summer / Crackling heat that broils
the grasshopper in a römertopf of its own
chitin / Now hoping
you will not notice my skin’s gypsum pallor
watershed of my veins bearing the ocean
I swear does not
make me me / Now dreaming aloud: How
thirsty I am with you I could crack the crust
with my teeth &
drink the planet’s iron core like slurping pulp
through a cut in the pith of an orange & now
I arrange my bones
& ask on which will you build your temple?
Rising coldfire moon, argent coin
flicked eons past,
hoarfrost kiss on cheek of night.
Tonight I treat with you, become
pure eye & ear,
waiting for your quartz rain sluice
to swell the flesh pump in my shell
& flush out
this corporeal blood in my veins.
Reshape me after the becalmed lake
body upon its crystalline tongue.
Stay the wind’s fingers a quantum
longer, let me
swim the mirrored water, let me
drift amid plethoric spores of light
seeded in a dark
outside of the misted gasp of breath
called atmosphere. Transmogrify my
being-here, let me be
as you are: the dreamer & the dream.