Issue 1

Josh Bell
Two poems

American History

How we loved your porkchops, fell out of carriages
to love them. When time was a problem. At first how cautiously, but then how many

and how often. Why we broke into their bones
like they were banks, tossed our plunder to the river’s

bloated crib. How we loved your porkchops, dreamed them sliced by rising helicopter blades
from a pink strip of daybreak, saw them drop like stone tablets into soyfields

and how the helicopters followed, dropping like banks into soyfields
the green of dental floss. Wherein we watched ourselves in hand mirrors, claimed

your porkchops loved us back. How you left so many bodies behind
when time was a problem. Or why the famous artists of the age

painted their own faces over ours, sitting at your dinner table
where they had never been. Why we knew why. How it was never you who cooked

your porkchops, then served them to the faces. Back when you evolved
from the vicinity of bone to the clean gristle of weeds,

were graduated to your broken meal of ash and black thistle,
were the last vegetarian. Then how you flew like scarecrows across

the smokeless palate of the desert, disappeared beyond the cloying ligament
and pretense of all food. Where you fell like a bank and left so many beautiful

bodies behind you. Why time was a problem. Why we arrived late for funerals,
carrying our dusty silverware on a belt of green dental floss,

and whomsoever’s at a loss for shovels, dig. How we loved your porkchops
and indivisibly how. Why we navigated by the glow of their grilling,

burst into a million tiny moths when we hit instead the headlights,
loved your porkchops through the prescription and the plaster, broke out of hospitals

to love them, came back in time machines just to watch ourselves
breaking out of hospitals to love them. When time was a problem. How jealous

we became of our past selves, handsome at a distant dinner table
where we could no longer touch the lovely porkchops

we’d gotten ugly touching. Why we wanted to see the new porkchops,
the porkchops raw, so broke into your kitchen for a glimpse of them,

fluttering pink tomahawks we’d fit into the uncooked wound of how many mouths
it was we finally had. When the dogs finally reached us.

In the time when time was a problem and the mouth a currency,
then did we imagine long days without silverware, when your porkchops

somehow kept us from our thoughts of the intricate
and candled skeletons of pigs. And how you left a lot of beautiful bodies behind

but nothing like those last ones. Why we broke into their bones
like children, like children will, and when we saw that soon

we couldn’t love your porkchops anymore, then why we marched them to the green soyfields
and fixed it so that no one else would love them.

Vince Neil Accompanies Josh to Luncheon w/ Scholars, Poets, and Others — Gets Cell-Phone Number of Grad. Student Sitting at Far End of Table — Orders Cheeseburger, No Tomato — Borrows Josh’s Cell Phone — Calls Grad. Student Sitting at Far End of Table

If I’d been born a girl, like you,
I wouldn’t have lived any longer than I will,
and whether I’d be waiting
in my new longjohns, or in the plus-sized version
of your blouse and Target pumps,
still the ancient boyscout Death would sidle up
and find me in the boathouse,
compliment my penmanship, my knots, and then
he’d lead me to the minivan, never to be seen
with this hairstyle again, the handsome scalp
and blond fringe now worn
by seagulls, who hit the high notes like it was nothing,
who think in unison, though they never
seem to fly that way, instead go dropping singular
from the squiggled flock
after breadcrust and fish eye, blip-blip
down from the sky, rogue threads of EKG. I mean to say
what’s globbed is globbed for good
and even John Keats will not unfuck it for us.
Though maybe you have this feeling
about me — good — and maybe then
you paste that feeling down with words
and I do the same, and then dreaming in our beds
we get the lonely message from each other,
just in time, just as the jackbooted soldiers
come rushing in, over the picket fence, with every fourth beat
of the fearful heart gone pulsing out its tracer bullet
into a potholed DMZ of sky — I’m not sure
what your dreams are like — the moon
now a cross section of bludgeoned tomato
over the schoolhouse, and now a white pants button
lost on the highway asphalt. Learning is strictly
for girls, the guns still going chop-chop-chop,
and John Keats, in those remaining years,
he kept sending up his test obituaries
like weather balloons, poems still floating even now
over Tulsa and the like, their comely
bivalved pentameter interfering
with radio signals, just the reverse
of the way a beautiful, living body
can scan so vibrantly it zones out
all the ghost code, can get between me
and the important messages
I should be getting from the underworld,
one code for another, the dead only interfering
with the living who’ve interfered
with the dead, and along those lines
I really think I’d be suspicious
of that veggie plate if I were you. It’s strange
how rarely the meat they serve us
resembles an animal, and strange how the vegetables,
despite their cleanliness and grace, so often do:
a tail or torso of zuchinni, and once I saw a rat-shaped eggplant,
hunched feral in a kitchen off Hermosa.
Look to the sea, as always, for echoes:
of course the many benthic cousins
of the turnip, spindly fruits morphing up their bodies
for our inspection in unsounded caves
filled with various see-through creatures
easily mistaken for prostitutes,
and finally the sirens plugging up their ears
against what new songs we have to offer.
My latest begins with a simple verse
about the girl with one lung and one gill,
how she loved me, how she sang
and how I never kissed her more than twenty feet
away from a swimming pool, how
she answered the phone and how
her phone voice made me feel
like running away to the forest, rebuilding
the old treehouse, then interrogating
the lilies of the field. And I promise you,
whatever your name is, I’m going to ride this feeling
all the way to Target. Because eventually all voices cease,
and — if I’ve been reading these poems right —
there’s a handjob waiting for us in the clouds.