Nevertheless, the tooth my brother placed
beneath his pillow remained, all night,
and the next, and the one after that, unmoved.
Ditto for the milk and cookies we left for Santa.
Untouched. Unanswered. Return to sender.
Flash forward: After the earthquake, my brother
inspects an overpass for structural damage, and
I meet with a student approximately 1986 miles away.
He’s failing my class, he says, because he’s cheating on his girlfriend.
Meanwhile, the governor of Alabama (initially advocating for a surgical
approach) signs a bill calling for chemical castration.
Next up: sterilization for deadbeat dads?
So yeah, there’s still no light in the attic. But no worries,
the fire’s burning on the other side of the house;
the water has only risen to the windows (the tornado’s waaay down
the street). At the zoological museum, there’s a scorpion suspended
in amber. Could it wait another millennia to sting?
As for the rats, ticks, and roaches, we could just as well see those
at home. Of extinction, what’s not to love?
Who will mourn the pubic lice
in the ongoing war against body hair?
Could it be that it all boils down to what Laurie
Anderson said about love and justice? Like the last time
I saw my father on a gurney behind glass. Or the way I refuse
Communion: fingers curled into fists, arms crossed,
x-ing out the thumping thing that failed him,
and is keeping me alive.
Mortality Forward, Mortality on the Nose
Sunshine. Every day, sun. A thrust through
the turnstile to the unforgiving heaven, desert of forgetting—
your childhood, adolescence, most of your adult life.
The walk in the park, not much mortality in that.
You need fitness—heart, lungs, abs.
The other list: cigarettes, anti-depressants, box wine,
all those micro-mortalities accumulate in the bloodstream.
Didn’t you ask? You didn’t ask. My father died last year.
He was a butcher; Hell is for vegans.
Those pink rocks looks just like pork chops.
I know all about his I-told-you-so’s, nothing of your I’m-so-sorries.
I keep walking in sunshine. No prophesies
required. No sunscreen or shade.
Crosswalk. White light. Man made of stars.
The RV that nearly hit me. Murderers,
I shout from the middle of the street.
Oh, if only I had a teenager to be ashamed of
me, to see his mother, sultana in cheap sneakers.
My father used to say, Clean your plate. God put animals on earth for us to eat.
Who’s eating them now? What’ eating him?
God, what gives? Cleanliness isn’t godliness anymore.
Is there a he, she, or it (anyone) at the end of this goddamned prayer line?
My dad, he’d pick up if he had a phone down there.
As it was, his last pro-mortality, a burger he ate
with my ghost child. Offspring of a 9-month pregnancy scare,
eating with my father.
Fear is to rage what blade to whetting stone,
shame the utensil he most avoided.
Regret a carcass dismembered.
Drumstick, music, with something he’d fill my plate.
My mother tells me he wasn’t drafted, he
enlisted in the army at the height of the War.
He wanted to kill, she says.
He wanted to go to college.
CINDY KING’S work has appeared in The Sun, Callaloo, North American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Prairie Schooner, Black Warrior, Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. Zoonotic, her book-length poetry manuscript, will be published by Tinderbox Editions in 2020. Her chapbook, Easy Street, will be published by Dancing Girl Press in December 2019. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Dixie State University and faculty editor of The Southern Quill.