The (Pillow) Sham Theory

Only the lame stands-on three legs.
   -William Carlos Williams, Paterson


Look at this blue brink. Look at all the little rowboats.
These hairy-backed hornets splayed out on the lake's
tethered skin. What becomes of such a parsed
and airless scene? Somewhere, there must sneer
dollops of failed parachutes atop hapless trees, an army
of green gnats, pine skulls, and piss?
A false eye cracked in a nest of needles.
A hunchbacked gnome with a stitched-up wrist.

But who am I to say? A bed-ridden bedbug.
I bask in the best ward,
half-baked-house, half-toll-.
The clinical cowhands wear wolfsuits
that unzip to yield wolves.

Down the hall, a great itch is coming on,
a pursed-lip gesture the color of hospice.
What a pity it is, what a pity indeed, some fond thing
squalls from behind the gummed glass.

I am sapped,
or I am sapping
Wherever I look is a dogstar laughing,
an orderly's apron flapping.

These loose tendons, useless tentacles.
All my love goes undirected.
And the belfry,
the near belfry,
how it bongs.


At Carl Schurz Park, I am sapping lemon juice and pulp into Sarah's unwashed hair. The seeds stick to her scalp like old bandages. We want everything: the rinds, the acid, the gore. Let none of it go to waste. Let none of it think you extravagant. On this half of the island, it is just high-noon. Or to put it starkly: I am the black rook, and she is the golden. Beyond us, what we do not realize: A harbor caves in like a highway. The damn contraption was misassembled.

There is so much nature here, it is shameful, Sarah opines.

The night before, we worked. We hacked at an unsuspecting fennel, a ham-hock, our intransigent freezer. We listened to two Argentines mimic Puerto Rican Spanish over porcelain plates, like two desired girls. It's the radio talking, it's the encyclopedia set ogling, we warned each other. Sarah's ankle had buckled under from the weight of nonbeing, or the terror of happiness. Love, O love, and garlic salt streaming. It rained on us like volcanic ash. It refused to let up for hours.


What is wellness? Does it have a ridged snout?
Could it tell a Djindjic from a Zizic?
Say psalms for choirboys, utter prayers for the dead?

Could it thresh wheat for just a pint-sized parish?
Can it airlift an armoire, devour a door?
Can it thread quilting needles with the nib of its tongue?

Can it, if it wants to, let dear Brutus off the hook?
Turn a mirror on prudence, make a sluice from a tusk?
If not, if not, what good is it?

What good indeed-It is fucked straight through.
Like X to X to X.
And these slews of cherubic ol' haunters,

in the business of tenterhooks
and dying, are all believed well?
(O Candystriper, sweetheart, this bedspread's got a nasty stain.)

For now, even my good aunt taunts.
She nurses her headless self, her
spell-ful ill. The right eye gone dull to a piebald pellet,

her hair slips out like strings of soap. She sweats
to finish a steak. That Soviet way,
the way she learned to speak to a camera:

unmoved, like a spotted deerhead in lights.
She states the rot plainly,
she wears the gown gladly.

This dear aunt allows us witness: bell-sleeved,
patchy-handed, how she labors
over a pink bone, a scalloped plate edge

with the will of a seasoned martyr.
O how the ceiling arches over us
recessed, a cornflower blue inverted pool

whose water is sucked to an ether.
This is how we distract our longing:
A pill becomes a wand becomes

a potion becomes a cure becomes
a god. And so on this way, the dog-
it chases, chases its tail. It swallows paper prayers.

And when my aunt's gaze lifts to meet with mine,
it could damn, perhaps salute,
but all the time, it envies:

Just look at you. To be young—she blithely hisses—
To have reverence for nothing.


There but for the grace of God go a three-legged dog.

It leaps!
It leaps!
It leaps!

Sarah has fled the city and left explicit, ink-wet instructions. Bring down the wall, cut up the phone lines. Heaven's skint. We are its heirs. In the morning, I seem smaller than small, elfin even, just a pink dot! Left to bemoan the loss of knives, the tattered springs, an owlish kitchen. The thermometer, lifted from my tongue, reads, "Bah, bah, bah." So this is my desire. A series of chewed-up prescriptions, a litany of bells. During evaluations, another wise Ibsen-ian man dismisses me in my paper purple poncho.

You win, he starts, you always do, by virtue of being you.

How would you compose this shallow life? How would you have me say it? My body on a board. My dear, darling Auntie, I just wanted you to know: The whole world smells of paraffin. The whole day smacks of dog.

*Published in Crowd