by Preston Johnson
Behind a Starbucks Watching A Sales Man Smoke
A man stands behind a mattress store
Pulling and pushing a cigarette.
I’m sure he never thought he’d do that,
Spill smoke between his teeth
With his head filled with mattresses
And how people look when they
Buy them and lay on them,
And complain about them.
He shortens his cigarette with a few breaths
And breathes out some quiet numbers
He wants to meet. He’ll linger among the spent
Minutes of his break and look at how
The cars pass, the leaves shake their green
Beetle shells and how two cats slide along
the dumpster he sometimes smells.
He’ll drop his burned breath
And stamp out its heat into
A thin ribbon of smoke
Then slide back into the building
Between the white herd of beds.
Searching Twenty-Eight Bodies For Where Uncertainty Started
I am pawing through my old chests,
My little-boy-self squatting down
With me as I pull a liver away,
A kidney to the side, they hover
Like pink stones. I’ll find nothing here
So I jump a few years. Those wide eyes
Follow me to another of my bodies
Who wears a mask of delicate years tied
Together with parental care.
I press my hands through
My twelve year old rebar and
Bump a heart that startles blood
That streams past fingers and lips and eyes
And legs like a broken colony of ants.
My little-boy-self, the one I see in angry grey
Photos who stares out with two
Voids in his face, points and I nod.
We move three years away.
I push fifteen years of skin off
Until the muscles open up
All that teen energy in a red embrace.
It sat behind the thick skull of youth
Covered in a kudzu-truth
Where a wild lizard waits.
I work down
And crumple the papery stomach
And spread the creamy spleen
Which opens up the intestine.
My little-boy-self smiles into me
And peels pearled-uncertainties
From those silent pink-grey worms
And puts it in my palm.
We stand and walk four years down.
A river of bodies flowing between
His two pupil-voids and my hand where
I watch this uncertainty unfold into bits of me.
A leg. An arm. A shoulder.
Afew undigested years at a time
Of small truths I hid
From the blue-dotted globe that I
Spiral on me, that dashed
With people wringing their patient
Embarrassed hands that tied
Kudzu along their fingers
So each action trills their emotive beasts
That whip fiery green youth along
The charred edges of their tightrope-vines.
At nineteen I begin to see me. An instar form
Still possible as I peer through
The gossamers of sense that cris-cross
My past-face. My little-boy-self breaks
The strands along the chest and I work
The organs out of their puzzle bags, draping
Like laundry over the slick covers of skin.
The pubic bone rests like a bucket, spilling
Pearls along the spine.
We pull them out together. Our arms
Like egrets dabbing confused morsels
From still pools of muscles.