|peter jay shippy|
Boolean Cocktails at Dawn
When I came home from work I found her print
On our bedroom wall
Like a Stone Age artist she must have blown
Ochre from her mouth
Over a bare hand held above our bed—
Tang and fear
I fill a tumbler from the blue gin
That came with our first set of furniture
At the office I have a Murphy bed
I will sleep there tonight
in its recess
Tang and fear
And when the sun rises I’ll grab my spear
And enjoin the hunt
I’ve never seen my partner eat one word.
Born God knows where she mutates
Phonemes. Are those traces of Toledo
In her castrated vowels? When she speaks
Into a walky-talky I hear Red Hook.
Once we drank too much, kissed and she whispered
Into my ear in English inflected
By the lower Rhine, “When spit freezes
Spiel kaputs.” I like licks
That come with cedilla rudders or infected
With umlauts. Our case began with numb kids
On spring break in Venice. Their corpses turned
The canal into milk. “Dead from moonstroke,
Or so it seems,” she said, as we lay
On our bellies atop a Mars-red mesa
In New Mexico, near Los Alamos.
“Let men burn stars,” I whispered to her
As a cluster of refugees moved across
The white sands. Into a bug she said:
“In Dallas, even the spelling of your name
Is a revelation to the prosecutor’s
Minister.” Discarded words on a paint-
Stained paper towel pointed us to Ottawa.
Our lives were saved when a stark breeze
Off the St. Lawrence stopped her from lighting
A cigarette. I made my fingers whisper—
Clam up—under the tranquil truck rubber
Rolling over cobblestones, delivering
Carcasses to the warehouses in Geek town.
When all was safe she used her tongue to crack
The padlock. I checked the wings for eyes.
In the middle of the counterfeiter’s loft
There was an enormous worktable
On wooden wheels, crammed with tubes of green paint,
Thesauruses, rhyming dictionaries,
A first edition Harmonium, a stray
Helmut Lang masque, a kung-fu mat,
And a Corbusier bottle filled
With robot wax. She had just begun
To scrutinize the southeast corner
For that tell-tale signature when we were
Text-messaged the sad news from old Oslo
Where a second transvestite bishop
Had been found ill from a mutant virus
In her ink well. Before the airport
We shared three shots for Midsummer's Eve.
“My mother was the kind of woman
Who skimmed the long, arduous passages?
She just wanted to know people! Ugh. I left
That burg as soon as I was able to parse.”
It was rare for her to open up to me.
Her eyes were unembellished, like a lamb
In a reduction vat. It seemed the time
To reciprocate. “Yes,” I began, “I envy
The licentiousness of the Barcelonan,
The way he may enter a long sentence
With upside-down punctuation, purring
From the start which way his train runs.” Did she
Blush as the alarm rang? Soon after,
I began to forget who unsharpened first.
It could have been a glamorous belles-
Lettres copier who collapsed and died
In a cabana on a snowy beach
In Hokkaido or the language poet
Whose caffeinated retro beer was dosed
With the referential universe
In a Brooklyn hipsteria as a chanteuse
With hair like a chanterelle sang fado or
The quantum physicist from Nairobi
Who moved colons using light photons
And then went poof! We entered his lab
Just as Sol LeWitt’s mural team
Was exiting, yes, beaten by the artists
Once more. The walls looked like someone had yanked
Forensic tape off the tin roofs of Montmartre.
I cried. His oils suggested blood and flesh.
“In New York, you pay for the verbs,” she said.
“In Paris, you pay for the nouns.” That was that.
Reporters tracked him down to Havana
Where he was opening his newest casino.
LeWitt denied any wrongdoing,
“My lines are too broken to be pornographic.”
When Philip Morris offered me scads
Of money for a multi-book deal
With total syntactical freedom
And guaranteed sales of 190 million
In Shanxi Province, alone—I knew
We had been close. Once she sent a postcard
From Salzburg where she’s posing
As a librettist at the Mozartium.
“In championship opera,” she wrote,
“If the fans leave the stadium singing
Your words—they send you back to the bush leagues.”
I keep that card on my desk in China.
At dusk, my garden fills with parrots
Who sing me communiqués, then expire.
|peter jay shippy is
the author of two books, Thieves¹
Latin (Univ. of Iowa
Press) and Alphaville
(BlazeVOX Books). Rose
Metal Press will publish his book-length poem, How to Build the
Ghost in Your Attic in 2007. Newer poems can be found in The American Poetry Review, Cue, and Harvard Review, among others. He teaches at Emerson College.