The Grocery Store in December
A little past midnight, the cats begin to call from their burn barrel beds, and from the back of the parking lot you’ll hear a marching coming from the cracks in the linoleum
And then they emerge – the employees. They drag out of the pale yellow lights, the letters B-A-G-N-S-A-V-E flickering beneath neon eyelids. With newly-popped zits at their chins and the inventory list hanging black and blue in their hands, they finger the ropes.
They are sailors, calloused as the day they began slicing rotten produce.
They are felons, lining up the row.
They are husbands, tying lover’s knots to keep her still.
They are junkies searching for the main liner.
They are many as executioners as coils in the knot. And they wind, and they wind,
hanging the Christmas trees by their necks in a line outside the store.
The Death Within
Imagine Jean Cocteau
: he has gold teeth and his fingers are fatter than you remembered, or maybe it’s just the fact that he’s got rings on every finger, choking the skin around his joints, separating them into little gold bullets
: a ring for every skinny Latin boy he bought in his days as boxing manager.
Imagine now, Panama Al Brown
: Alphonse is no heavyweight; if he were a Boxer, as in
the dog, as in
: a dog who roughed up other dogs, as in
: one of two dogs circling one another in the back garage of a mechanic shop,
he’d be the throat muscles torn open at the source.
Imagine me, the teeth
: I am barely his breed, this Panama Al, sitting across from me in his corner of the ring
: I see his paws are wet and his sides are heaving,
and he probably guesses about now
that his manager – the man writing – is in fact writing, as in
out his story in sweat, as in
throwing the fight, as in
counting his numbers, as in
whispering in my ear –
“on the one hand, son, he’ll be dead, and glad for your mercy,
on the other hand, he’ll be dead.”
In Which Panama Al Brown Wakes Up
On this particular morning,
the rain turns the world to lavender.
And on this particular morning,
Panama Al Brown,
Cocteau’s famous flyweight,
walks into the dining room
of my parents’ house
without his boxing gloves on.
In the night, my mother
had slipped them off his ashy fists,
thinking he could not dream
properly with them on.
She is currently frying them
in the pan into which I dropped
the day I left the sea of her womb
twenty-one years ago, and the day
Panama Al kissed the canvas
beneath his own mother.
Panama Al Brown sits down at the table and
lays down his lids
on the kitchen floor,
whispering a prayer
to their black underbellies.
Kneeling beside him,
I remind him that
we are all skeletons in the ground,
trying to reverse what is natural –
it is enough to remember your golden gloves,
or the taste of their leather
as it expands inside of you.