The Baby

by Jay Sizemore


The day the panicked fawn ran up my street,
my wife and I had spent our morning painting.
We were covered in sweat, white droplets of semi-gloss
dried to our clothes like the spots
on that baby deer’s flanks. I remember the terror
in its wide brown eyes, its mouth working with foam
as if foam were the manifestation of screams
that had eclipsed the sound barrier,
the deer bounding from concrete to grass
to concrete to grass, as it leapt through
neighboring yards and vanished between
two houses, leaving an absence greater
than words torn from a page,
greater than twenty-nine grams of electrical mass,
when the skin starts slackening and pooling with sky.

We drove past the field on our way to Home Depot,
where the large yellow trucks, the backhoes, the bulldozers
were pushing over the trees like brittle weeds,
flattening out the hills through clouds of dingy dust,
moving earth into a tall mound like the tilled soil
of a fresh grave. There was no sign of where
the deer’s mother could have gone,
no sign announcing the pending result
of so much construction,
an ironic name for work that warns
of the eminent BLASTING ZONE
in bright orange, reflective squares.
I took my wife’s hand and kissed her Rorschach palm.
We had several hours left to finish painting the nursery.

Breathing under water

by Jay Sizemore


~for Bobbi Kristina

A fetus develops gill slits
that are later absorbed.
In utero, the infant is submerged,
lungs under-developed,
thumb in mouth,
oxygen-rich blood siphoned
through the umbilical cord
like gasoline from the tank of god.

Imagine a bathtub filled with amniotic fluid.
A daughter distraught with memory,
her mother found three years ago
in that cold white womb,
proving the finite nature
of her love.

Mother’s lullaby was a rubber tube
cutting off circulation to the arm.
Mother’s voice was the crackle
of hot shit in a spoon.
Mother’s perfume was gin-laced sweat,
breath in those embraces before bed.

Oh, to be that close to her again,
to know her heartbeat
like a plucked bass string,
to feel her hands
blooming like roses
on her cheeks,
to hear her sing,
truly sing, without the rust
of drugs turning her throat
into a storm drain,

she could lure any man off course,
bring a nation to its feet
with songs heard
hundreds of thousands of times,
bring tragedy to the afterlife
by refusing to leave her daughter’s side,

still singing her to sleep each night,
a haunting memory, barely audible,
asking her to wade out into the sea,
to take her mother’s hand,
to warm up her voice for the crowd
in the cheap seats, in the nosebleeds,
and in order to project,
remember to always breathe deep.

Seeing snow for the first time

by Jay Sizemore


Yesterday, he found a swastika painted on his door.
Red paint, that dripped in rivulets like lamb’s blood,
only today no one feels safer for sacrifice.
The air in this country always smells of jasper,
dirt and the sea. But this morning the scents
turned cold, everything a reflection of the sun,
hills clothed in white robes the angels couldn’t wear.
He knelt and felt the burn of crushed ice
in his fist, threw his first snowball
and watched his laughter turn to vapor,
clouds that vanished like whispers for rain.

Yesterday, his knife bit bone, cutting off a Christian’s head.
The desert drank deep, blood and sand turned dark,
a smell like iron caked with rust. Without his mask,
he could kiss his wife, relish the water
her lips left on his cheek, listen to the voice of god
humming between her thighs. This morning,
he woke to a scimitar sky, the world a white wedge
of light through a tent flap. His eyes stung.
He knelt and felt the burn of crushed ice
in his fist, threw his first snowball
and watched his breath turn to vapor,
clouds that vanished like whispers for rain.

Soy un ganador

by Jay Sizemore


~after Beck

In the time of auto-tune I was a singer,
callused fingertips with a beat-up six stringer,
strumming in the reverb, slap back twang,
swivel ankle shoes and a mountain of cocaine.

I keep my clothes on when I fuck,
strobe light hypnotist, don’t have to show my junk,
I’m a runaway truck – my beat cut the brake line,
making maggots sick on my body full of red wine.

My microphone’s a dagger you would put in my back
chasing echoes round the dark like a rabid fruit bat,
I’m the sun and the moon rolled under the rug,
paint the sky plaid and give the stars more drugs.

It’ll never be enough, once your tolerance is up,
a Humvee for a liver and a helmet for a cup,
that scent of success like a meat-packing plant,
new faces in the front, take the old out the back.

It’s all vanilla, what they’ll put in your spoon,
a sugar sweet sap Taylor Swift cookie cutter cocoon,
imagine a world with no rough edges round the heart,
computers writing songs and the artists in the trailer park.

Know what I’m sayin?

Thank God

by Jay Sizemore


There’s a future that exists without me in it,
where my father didn’t get sick a day before the flight,
where I was irritable with my children
for arguing in the car, with my son
for forgetting to pack his reading glasses,
with my wife for turning her lips into a bookmark
between the pages of a novel I’d never read,
with myself for being too afraid to open that book,
and instead ripping sheets from my own binding.

There’s a future where I hand the teller our tickets,
and when they’re scanned, information crosses continents
at the speed of light, validating the zeroes and ones
of design, the predestined departure and arrival
encoded into the magnetic stripe like an inscription
on the slip of a fortune cookie we’re saving for later,
because everyone knows fortune cookies are bullshit,
but there’s hope in that sugary shell,
a shell that’s so easily broken, just like a body
smashed against the rocks with no one to read its secrets.

I can see that future when I look in my father’s eyes,
and I wonder why our timeline split like a cell
stuck to a mother’s uterine wall, while so many others
sloughed out into the void, oxygen masks deployed,
where storms darken blues to the deepest of blacks
not even the deep sea trenches could hold.
I think of another future, where the wind was blowing
just hard enough to bring the clouds in,

a future where deities were with the weathermen
and that plane was delayed, saving every life,
not just mine, not just my wife’s, not just my kids’,
all 162 souls still holding their fortunes inside.
I think of that future and I thank God,
I thank God I’m still here
opening books I never intended to read,
flipping to their last pages first.

They tell you, you are going to die

by Jay Sizemore


-for Brittany Maynard

and memories turn to thrift store donations
you’ll never drop off. Life becomes
that book of poems you forgot
on the hotel nightstand, a ticket stub
stuck somewhere in its middle,
reflections taking on an abstract sensation
of semi-permanence, a goose-fleshed knowledge:
this is as old as I’m ever going to look,
as I’m ever going to be.

It seems the poets lied
when they said beauty resides in truth.
It seems they knew existence is itself cliché,
best experienced as a drinking game,
leaving subtle clues in their work:
every time you hear the word moon, take a drink.
You’ll never see the leaves turn gold again.
The word leaves, take a drink.
There’s nothing painless about this choice.
Pain: drink.

Getting drunk dulls the edge of the knife
slicing time’s tomato-skinned rope,
but when you wish it most to go slow
it quickens like water
spilled across a polished black piano,
running off in all directions,
away from the empty glass,
a kind of messy big bang.

It’s cynicism, like knowing the stars don’t exist,
but admiring them anyway,
because fuck cynicism
until the moon comes back in style. Take a drink.
When they say you’ve got six months to live,
remind them they have less
to prove the poets wrong:
The stillness is the beauty,
when the beauty is gone.

vegas

by Sarah Gawricki


prance on stage with her
snorted gumption and
ill-fated patience.

7-inch plastic and rehearsed coquetry.
latex skin and other problems.
smile and prune and master
the art of
legal thievery.
we take any card.

understand
the difference
of black behind barbed wire
and your pale ballroom cage,
understand
the difference in shades,
understand

self-started oppression.