STEPHEN DANOS

 
fish fillet.jpeg
 
 

Badge of Accomplishment

for P.D. & H.D.

 

 

Demise is linked to either the provision

or renouncement of offspring.

 

I built a statue of loathing out

of cornmeal, so let’s eat it to death.

 

When scientists splice new species

my imagination shrinks and expands

 

like metal heated and cooled simultaneously.

I blast adult contemporary at your citadel.

 

The soothsayer murmured I should

with his leaflet tongue, after dismantling

 

a praying mantis, then putting it together

piece by piece like a pistol

 

and that’s the moment I knew

I would own a franchise                  or be

a seahorse without a pouch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stretch rough out of mythology | into a green denim mindset | I pierce my nose with a beetle | I need to be your erotica | infidelity is a forming clay | in a fitting room I try on honesty | the best way to read poems | is over tea kettle screech | or boiling lobsters alive | the best time to fuck | is after a self-entitled interlude | after you escape | from the bramble of argument | step into the crock pot and scream for a day 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d pat you on the back if it weren’t wet cement

You smell like a church | where prayers give birth

to incense and incensement

 

Say you have a territory              I have a territory    

            and together we                            fortify

 

The scent of your swivet

swivels a heart transplant       Stitch up your chest—

your privates are showing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Replacement theory rules my family crest

Morning crunches the numbers into brittle paste

 

Existence can be canker sores or

a low moon swaddled in a sunset’s aura

 

It is true that newborns

are corpses in the making        please don’t feel bad

 

The stars are dilated eyes appraising

your abdication              your barren throne

 

Bluntness through sharpened war     

A knot of flesh and skeleton

you brood over falling

upon your sword      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The issue becomes why and pity from parents

The pity becomes a lounge full of corpses

The corpses become impetus

 

[nothing happens] [nothing happens]

 

Our family’s infectious condolences

 

I take notes on foraging          

You fill in moats with soil

for months          until you confide

trying is a hide and seek

Too many ghosts in the graveyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Des Moines with     Natalie      Kyle     Melissa

we painted carrier pigeons gold-ingot

and talked about extinction

with a museum curator

enthusiastic about his acuity

about unspeakable human conquests

 

 

 

 

I’ve never felt less deserving

Uninvited guest       there’s just not enough

to go around   

 

 I cannot imagine the stress

                                                           

         of your infidelity | asphyxiation

 

Older computers incompatible

with the latest software | systemic operation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luna moths strafe the field at night

One lands on your netted palm      presents

its wound-like eyespots     You panic

 

You peel lime-green wings

to flavor your gin and tonic

 

Strident need for creation       

Migraines at the core of routine

 

I feel your pain      or I’m unaffected

as if you are pouring hot water

over my hypothermic hands

 

I find myself championing

immaculate conception     despite

logic bashing its head

against a wall for attention

           

If we are accumulations

of choices and chance

I want to parent a rarity

 

with progress | without progress


BIRTHRIGHT 

 

third born | where do you get your ideas | the idea | that somehow you | little piggy | are deep-rooted in the dirt of dominance | or better than | the rail of ants you want as your immediate family | brothers costumed as an elderly pair for Halloween | sagging masks | nightmarish potential | I’m allergic to silver and mercury | fast-forward | to snorting bumps of needle-nosed speed | admired your breakneck | banged your head into the wall | theatrics | closed mouth until your breath was purple | theatrics | have you ever grown accustomed to a lifestyle | no one can provide | my brothers follow your hearts into war games | grill your sorrows on the stones | under argumentative sunshine | sometimes I am the play that cannot be named | or else | consequences | I went from Mortal Kombat | button mashing fatality | to a sedentary lifetime | please don’t get up | unsex me here | ambiguous as whiplash 


WATERLOGGED 


for the last time I breathe scales | I weight balance opposite havoc | as a series of dainty chromosomes | no control | rain floods pores | I tend to the houseplants | but they wilt as if by flame | no control | how much komodo dragon do you think you are | shaky eyes shank me please | I use your musical tastes | cassette taped our communication | I think maybe | Pink Floyd Morphine Living Colour Wu-Tang | auditioning for my right ear | would covalent-bond | no control | you told us you were Batman Jesus walking the straight white line | them dumb kids sneaking out of Sunday school | broken axles | no control | you’re freaking me out | like I won an award for giving the best performance | of permanence | no control | no changing the channel | I tend to the pools | of brown water under the houseplants | the paper towels are not | as absorbent as advertised | like tossing water off a capsizing boat with a bucket | sinking in ocean


PASSING THROUGH THE ARCHES 

 
Violet sunset means we have no right 
to our annoyances or the vehemence of 
professionalism. Ten thousand volts 
                           of domestic power, cleaning 
 
dustbunnies off the busted hardwood. The life 
we choose despite everyone else’s advice means 
it belongs. Never felt more alive 
 
than these porcinis. The average person 
pees two cups worth per toilet visit. I don’t know how 
to sweat. I don’t know sweeteners. To be presented 
a horse head and say 
                        This is the life. Some days are worth 
 
saving. Some days are conjunctions 
eating our most common speak. 
 
A cat moaning its dull ambulance moan. 
A weekend spent indoors marathoning. 
A word that once meant more than receiving 
 
the gospel. I was given a drive 
from Portland. Passing through the arches 
of eight rainbows on I-5, through 
                                                 their ends. 
The cleavage of ROYGBIV:         Bon voyage. 
 
                                                 The only color 
after I cracked                            the frozen 
creek            with my child-weight      was violet- 
lipped. If you reference every dream 
dictionary, every astrology coupling 
                        blows kisses to itself. 
 
This re-enactment is (was) the (a) life. 
           A see-through parable of violet 
deception and cholesterol.                      All this time 
spent well          perfecting 
                                                   collateral damage 


Stephen Danos is author of the poetry chapbooks Playhouse State (H_NGM_N Books, 2012) and Gravitational (The New Megaphone, forthcoming 2014). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Barn Owl Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, Forklift Ohio, Laurel Review, Sixth Finch, Southeast Review, Transom, and various other places. He is Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online poetry journal Pinwheel.