His exceedingly developed sense of codex
Is evident from his trash, from the litter
Of spondees and compound nouns found in his den.
The pudding stone walls of his cave are covered
With charcoal etchings of his puerile nature:
A bloody crucifix, cocks and tits, the lyrics
To “Moaning’ at Midnight” and a clenched fist.
Wolf wears a made-to-measure lupine-fit suit
With his name sewn into the silk gland lining.
His downbringing, know-how, and brain waves pound through
Insipid verbal schemes—he slings with slang
No one else speaks: This dog has teeth to burn.
He will not dialogue. He doesn’t tow cow.
I’m the puppy who put the tic in ontic.
Nonentities vividly bore him. Each year
For Halloween he goes human, wears a mask
And sits in a rocker on his front porch, still
As a church mouse until a tiny ghost raps
His door and then he leaps forward—Booklouse!
Let’s calculus! Let’s duke an assassination!
Wolfman throws a spitter that openly
Disdains the rules of narration and motion.
And yet the umps go dumb, safely ensconced
Behind their masks. Who can blame them? Persona
See, persona do. Follow his howls and find
A moon. Dog can smell the unbridgeable spaces.
Ain’t we a shame? When he unlocks his jaw
You best cottontail—find your black hole.
The sun burns through the snow.
The doorman’s green stovepipe sports
Reindeer horns. The lobby is filled with shepherds.
Wise men wait to be elevated.
A flock of Santas pack the lounge to mull the Broncos
And drink hard cider. Two who could pass
For Civil War recreators sing carols
Under the tree, an almost unembellished
Blue spruce; really, just candles,
Just the intimation of tinsel.
Amazing. I feel null. My chest dilates.
When my eyes can’t hold on any longer I steal
A perfect golden box from under the tree
And check-in. Upstairs, I help the ghost
Of Christmas passed-out swipe
His room card. He kisses my hand.
He bows. I bow.
The Loews Hotel, Denver, Colorado
The cashier mouths the lyrics to car insurance ads jingling the restaurant’s teak hi-fi. Her pink tee reads: I SPEAK ITALICS. The Buddha-bellied cat on the register raises its porcelain paw—howdy. Or whoa? You and what army? jeers a fissured voice from the corner, the booth with the cushiest pillows and the best view of sidewalk traffic.
Today that’s where a cadre of punk rock recreationists share veggie kabobs. Bald children with skewers in their noses give me the willies.
I’m the tilde-backed figure sucking lassi-sopped naan.
My koi waitress discriminates her charms.
If only we had antennae. Then she’d know my beat. Once I saw her in my world—at the Soy Polloi Market where I DJ, providing milieu music for the seemly shoppers. I was cooped in the customer service booth, wearing headphones, working a samba record on my turntable. She was buying rice cream and kosher wine. I waved and went ibid ibid over a snug riff that precisely accompanied her sashay—but she walked away, into the lot, back into air.
Despite the food on my plate, she brings the bill.
I wish I had the guts to ask her about the dessert specials or the weather or to ask her to be my candlepin partner on Laptopia Night at Rolling Thunder Lanes. Instead, I blurt: “Ever see The Khyber Pass with Rodney Colman? He plays a British spy pretending to be a disillusioned Indian aristocrat in order to infiltrate a thuggee cell. That’s how he meets a young Kate Hepburn who plays a ranee hotty—pregnant pause—escapades ensue.”
I smile to indicate that I’m done speaking. She tugs on her blonde ponytail and says—“You think I’m from here? I mean there? No, I’m from Revere, not Afghanistan. Sorry.”
I nod. That’s fine.
The first few times I ate here I thought the white owl in the bamboo cage over the cigarette machine was alive. A bus curves though the intersection. I take out my pen and write down the numbers bouncing round my head. New songs? Or, it’s never too early to be insured?
Dorothy Dorothy Goose
She loves the weather being such a pattern
That you cannot erase a scare quote without
The whole sky falling. She drives with earplugs
To frame the chaos. Although she was raised
As a Trotskyite socialist she believes
That personal pronouns count more than verbs.
She favors the untried life, without fervor.
Once, she carried her dollhouse on her back
Through the woods behind our house to the lake.
She put the toy Victorian on a wooden dock
And set it all ablaze. To this day she maintains
It was an act of self-defense. She loves
Buttercups and crows and stones that resemble
Famous poets of a school she’s invented:
The Ellipsists or the Latinate Yeggs.
Her favorite weapon is the balalaika.
She is terrified by fragility—the sound of an egg
Rolling across a parquet floor is enough
To send her to the belfry. Dot Dot insists
She recalls when I was brought home
From the hospital—though she had just turned
Turned one. They gave me a train, she says,
And claimed that it was a gift from you—
Blue caboose—a cattle car with tin steer—
An engineer stoking the fire that turned
The wheels over the track that ran under
My bed—the hush-hush spot I called Vietnam.
She watches nature TV hoping to see rhinos
Crashing pythons as they eat SUVs. She loves
To run the woods behind our old house
To the sea, where I find her turning
to greet me.
The bandage over your eyes unravels like a road, growing
familiar, going home.
's books are Thieves’ Latin (University of Iowa Press) and Alphaville (BlazeVOX Books). New work can be found in: The American Poetry Review, Cue and Harvard Review, among others. His website: www.peterjayshippy.com.