The Pin-Up Calendar or Be Careful What You Wish For
The Christmas exchange drawing. The only female in an all-male office. I tried to make it easy on him, asked for a calendar, hinted something with Plains scenery might be nice.
The party. The white tissue paper. Folded over. His wife hadn't helped a bit. "A calendar! Just what I wanted." A pin-up calendar no less. Not of busty starlets, mind you, but of missiles: full frontal nudes of Minuteman missiles set against the serene desertscapes of White Sands.
"High Speed Test Track," it was called. I thumbed the pages. It appeared to be the same reclining missile month after month, at various times of day, like Monet's Rouen series. Each month's caption extolled a different missile milestone; the missile passing critical fetal tests: fuel slosh, skin-cutting, dispense. Save for the occasional rail sled or concrete wall, the compositions erased all evidence of paternity. No proud engineer-papas were pictured alongside their fully-grown Venuses.
Count me among those who love to blow things up. And I especially like to watch things burn, the more inorganic the better, the more spectacular the flash spectrum. But this calendar offered no purgative, no visual release for my pyro-aggression. Perhaps it was intended as a gargantuan art joke—like those two-story shuttlecocks on museum lawns—the missiles merely exaggerations of their smaller bullet kin. But I couldn't detect a lick of irony in any of the monthly portraits. Maybe this is how tolerance for horror begins: by containment, by keeping the real fireworks out of frame.
I flipped to June. There was something about June. We all said so, couldn't take our eyes off it. Hours later I realized it wasn't the missile we'd responded to but the light. The same kind of thick amber light that instinctively made us power-off mowers in the spring; that made us check the sky for funnel clouds, wary of the freakish still life that preceded supercells and the volatile marriage of up and down drafts.
To See or Not to See? A Poet's Day Off
the errands done early=I decide to cheat on you my love=go to our favorite place
without you=my cheeks tingle anticipating the bubbles of prosecco deglazing Zia's fig
cookies=our first romantic meal=remember?=so young we thought nothing of sipping
champagne from an aluminum can
I cross the bakery threshold in full sepia drool=there's a new boy at the counter=he
appears pale & his hands shake when he reaches for the cookie plate=& I think to
myself=not today=I'm off duty
he rings up my sale=asks=do you know what you get when you mix old paint and kitty
litter?=& I smile=take my change from his clammy palm=pretend not to hear=the poet's
off duty today=I don't want to ponder his childhood traumas=nor the drug use that's
melting his brain whey=not today
once in a while even poets need a Norman Rockwell afternoon=no lonesome Hopper
nighthawks anywhere in sight=all troubling images set adrift=chartless on unstrung
kites=all meaning ditched & left to seed
Zia's salt-and-pepper bun suddenly emerges from the kitchen & I feel relieved=she
waves her forearms at the boy=her grandson=scolds him in Italian=he's done
something wrong with the zucchero=the sugar=the only word I recognize=& none of it
makes any sense until she lifts his t-shirt=pinches his belly skin=& jabs him with an
Play within a Play
while waiting my turn at the four-way stop=I watch a young pair of mourning doves on
the icy walk=he keeps circling her=& circling=the shock still apparent in his frantic
hop=in the way he keeps ramming his head into her stilled breast
perhaps they'd been playing red light-green light=perhaps she'd failed to stop when he
shouted red light!=or maybe he'd been hamming it up=playing Tarzan to her Jane=his
yell so croaky she'd listed off the curb laughing=no way to avoid the oncoming fender=a
slipped foot=an odd break=that's how it happened sometimes
green light=my turn to go=my tires spun in the freezing slush=& I wondered about the
next scene=was I really dead or merely gaslighting him?