The chicken in his jokes always crosses the road, never gets
to the other side. Isn't that where I am, I ask, in the middle
of the road? Doing the traffic two-step, waiting for the eternal
light to turn red. He never honks when he comes up from
behind, spins me like a weathervane in a Midwestern tornado.
I think in these terms: what if, what not, what else. The lights
in the Cooper Street apartment seem to dim and brighten
by themselves. I've seen that movie too, you know.
The snow never melts here. It just becomes ice
cream. We sprinkle handfuls of sugar on it, watch
the white get whiter. Then we shovel it into our gaping
pink mouths, swallow it before it has a chance to melt
on our tongues. We massage our temples to alleviate
the delightful ache behind our eyes, from such a lethal treat.
I only read the newspaper because I love the sound the pages
make when I turn them. Otherwise, I'd rather line the bird cage
with it. Make confetti or do origami.
The End Closes in Like A Storm
Comes up from behind, taps me on the shoulder.
Politely asks for directions like a tourist. How to
get to the tip of the city, a southern extremity.
Where they're shutting down a factory, plugging
up a leak in the system. A job to be finished,
carried out. Executed like a dance step, a bow.
Limited vocabulary, use of speech. Hands fumble,
fingers latch on to signs of expression. Words
stop up my throat, fill my cheeks. Slam against
my gums and teeth. Lips sealed like a letter. I can
only conclude it's over, wait for the credits to roll
on the screen, the word, finis, to appear in bold face.
The concept of reality escapes him like air
from a balloon. He's still carrying around
manufactured injuries from childhood. Every noise
an echo reverberating in the high-ceilinged chambers
of his memory. He leaves fingerprints in his lies, then
retraces his steps, covering his tracks along the way.
He is too fragile, jerked, bounced and shaken, spun
around by the ghosts of his imagination. Shadows
overwhelm him; he could drown in his own blood.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the forthcoming poetry collection Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). Recent/forthcoming lit-mag publications include The Penn Review, Exquisite Pandemic, RFD, Gargoyle, Limp Wrist, Mollyhouse, and Impossible Archetype. An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.