Monday, May 11, 2015

#168" Two Poems by Michael Gushue

The Iraqi Hilton

~This poem was previously published in the Indiana Review (2003).
All this reconstruction is hopeless.
We will never lawn over our failures.
Failures are a lens to fry ants as they
travel on their invisible monorails of scent.
The smell of ants attracts
the bunko squad. Although disbanded,
each member of the bunko squad yips
like a Barbary ape caught between bars.
Sitting in bars, we watch the Nature Show and
the Food Show. But the Cop Show watches us.
In this episode, because he owns me,
the chief can put his arm around my shoulders
and say: "There's enough here to re-elect
the mayor without a single vote. A man
never knows how handsome he is until
his face has been irredeemably scarred."
During the night crows fell from the trees
and shattered onto the pavement below.
Each morning I had to sweep the shards
of black glass that littered the sidewalk.
Confession: I ditched the bags at a work site
for a monument whose very idea I detested.
One day while sweeping I took off my gloves
and picked up a bit of wing. Clean sharp edges.
The next morning my hand was brittle as praline.
We crawled downstairs to lobby head first.
In the middle of every room,
            pools of mercury.

During the War of the Mini-fridges our emblem was:
The Frozen Exploded Coke Bottle.
Electricity rationed in tiny vials
and measured in sporks.
Famous Battles: Water Retention. Water
Retaliation. Meat Disposal. Attrition.
On Tuesday, an angel arrived
and committed atrocities on us.
Her left buttock was tattooed
with a skull and broomhandles,

“There is so much garbage in the world.”
In the Iraqi Hilton
there is something beige about

all the colors in the room.
The line dead. Two days,
and my body odor is a foreigner.
Outside, loudspeakers ululate.
In the TV snow, coming at me—
is that Godzilla, or the Dear Leader,
or the Parliament of Wolves?
Patella, femur, scapula, ulna.
I can hear the racket outside
my door, out in the dim hallway:
two skeletons, coupling.


Monday, May 4, 2015

#167: "The One That Got Away" by Mary Kay Zuravleff

~This story was previously published in Gargoyle (1988).


Jeanine’s gills were becoming more pronounced, she noticed on Saturday. Ralph pretended they were just lines on her neck, but Jeanine could feel them flap when she coughed or sneezed. They both read the paper. A woman in Miami, a man in Portland, sisters in New Orleans. A baby had been born with them in Houston. Gradually, Jeanine expected, she would need water for her air.
            Ralph blamed Jeanine’s yoga teacher, though none of the other cases mentioned seaweed supplements or chlorophyll drinks. What was she trying to show him? Other wives were having breast implants, dying their hair, or letting themselves spread into elastic waist pants and baggy sweaters. Ralph could not understand Jeanine’s attitude toward the transformation of her shapely, freckled body.
            At breakfast, Jeanine watched Ralph through the chlorophyll water in her glass, remembering when his unhandsomeness had been endearing. Ralph’s small brown eyes were sunk into his doughy cheeks like raisins, and his thick arms and legs stuck straight out from his torso. But he was not made of gingerbread; he was pasty white with clumps of black hair randomly tufted over his body. He smelled unshowered this morning, and Jeanine could not remember why she married a man with hair on his back.
            So far, the longest they had gone without mentioning her scales or thinning bones was a full day. As a scientist, Jeannine was intrigued by these changes. In a notebook she recorded the progress of the slits along her neck as well as her ideas about their cause. I should tell him about the water supply, she thought. I’m going to say it’s a worry I have.
            “What?” Ralph asked, expectant and annoyed.
            “I’m going swimming,” she said and left to gather her gear.
            In the water, Jeanine tried to be firm with herself. This is only for half an hour, forty minutes at most. You wouldn’t want to live in the water. You wouldn’t. Want to live. Her words floated away from her, and she swam without stroke or kick. From the bottom of the pool, she watched the executives take their oval laps while she freely moved from lane to lane. She listed reasons to stay on dry land. Ralph. Yoga class, the smell of wood smoke. More compelling was that if she were caught meandering in the Bay, they would probably scale and gut her on a university dissecting table.
            The young, goose-bumply lifeguard glared at Jeanine the few times she came up for air. When she heard him blow the whistle that announced the end of adult laps, she thought only twenty minutes had passed. She flopped out of the pool, unexpectedly struck by how upright everyone was. Chlorine stung her neck, and her fine hair looked green under the bathroom lights. By the time she got home, Ralph had been to the hardware store and back.
            “For Cripe’s sake,” he said. “Did you swim for two hours?”