Peter Jay Shippy
When She Found Out She Had Been Misusing the Word Connundrum her Whole Life, She Left her Cubicle and Went for a Walk
There are 12.9 miles of trails in the arboretum.
The Quaker School is closed today.
Star Way is off Star Street but Star Boulevard
which is more like a road or an avenue
is miles away. A boulevard is wide
and lined with trees. An avenue is a course,
an approach like biology or a secret door
behind the revolving bookcase taken
to access someone or something.
There is an islet in the large pond. I dream
of building a house on it. A very small house—
a chalet, a lean-to, a hut. The morning shadows
would diffuse the strangeness of waking.
I could plant strawberries and sell jam
at the bi-monthly farmer’s market
in the McKinley Elementary parking lot.
I’d travel to work and back each day
in rowboat I’d name Jehoshaphat! Except
in the deep winter, when I could skate.
I’ll paint the turtles’ shells. I’ll hoist a flag.
I’ll build a windmill to power my cabin.
Of course, this is a pipe dream. Perhaps
if I agreed to clean the hiking trails
and give nature lectures, my town would acquiesce?
I’m tired. It's Tuesday. It gets dark early
this time of year. I pass an old man whistling
“In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.”
I turn around to follow, to see him home.
From nine to six I watch airplanes descend
I collate, I make coffee, I staple
It’s my job to walk from workspace to workspace
No one has ever mistaken me for a bird
We ride an elevator to the roof to smoke
Memos suggest that we delete wayward narratives
Keyboards rustle like Balinese mallets
Much of the mass of the universe is toner
After fifty copies of my eyes I can finally see
And what’s a mask but a sieve for numbers
I spend lunch with the insignia catalogue
The Old Glory near the helipad is at half-mast
The Brainteaser has troubles, too, I guess
We’re not dreaming; we just can’t work our lids
Memos urge me to cease feeding mice
And then a fly exits the ointment, makes tracks
Is someone famous dead or just history?
After lunch I wrap my cape around my face
I stop at each station, point, smile, ask: your kid?
Someone yells eggbeater! and we make haste
The Coast of Kansas
(Walking through a corn maze)
According to this pamphlet there’s some guy
in Greece who designs these mazes, this year’s theme:
Your mother’s lover—chaff or subsidized rye?
According to the bathroom walls, our regime
needs some old-time comeuppance. And I’m just
the man for the job. What was that? A scream?
Every puzzle has its constructive trust.
I think we’ll be fine if we take a left
at the scarecrow and shun the blister rust.
Day after day we fixate on the theft
but let the thief run a thumb through Mom’s pie—
you don’t hear that growl? Sharp hooves? Something cleft?
(MINOTAUR’S lair—ORESTES and ELECTRA are chained to a wall)
And so I says to her I says—if that’s
what passes for love in this mad world,
you can have it, sweetheart, this dog
has his bone into the padlock
of the laughing academy’s door
if you get my drift, and she says—
Who says? Your Ma says, that’s who says.
(Long pause—MINOTAUR flosses his teeth with the end from a ball of thread)
‘if you get my drift, and she says—’ what?
Finish your story.
The! End! Satisfied? Happy, now?
Helsinki! That Finnish enough?
(MINOTAUR’S cell phone rings—he answers)
If you get my drift, and she says
I’m Clytemnestra, when I say
jump you say Van freaking Halen
and I say hold a seconal
I says I got ears, eyes and tusks
that tune your frequency, plus
I nabbed your kids, just like you asked,
so let’s cold-cock these cynosures
I says and leave their corpses for gorp.
(THESEUS and the rebel army break down the door and rescue the kids)
A villain on a train—a fierce wolflet
with spyware—apple green sunlight—
pods of tourists appear and reappear—
there is a blue gittern-player plucking
strings pulled by a melancholy bull—
a mother peels the pelt from her enemies
like skin from a tomato—a rock, a pram,
a sharp pair of scissors which a princess
uses to kill the poet who wrote his dreams—
there is a boarded up ghost town—good folks
gather under a weak street lamp outside
the Palace Saloon as a platoon
of dead buffalo soldiers march into
the western sky—a train growls—hooves cleft—
scraps of verse float across our screen—red flags
lift and are kissed by the wind—the rebel cell
advances—red-eyed—down a dark labyrinth
towards a padlocked door and boom-boom-boom—
here we are, Robespierre.
(ELECTRA, ORESTES and the ghost of AGAMEMNON walk hand-in-hand along the beach on the coast of Kansas)
Above her left eye was a lightning bolt
shaped scar, the kind you lick for luck, the size
of a microchip and silver as smolt.
Her hair was yellow, her face was snake eyes,
her breasts were weapons of mass seduction,
her white hands were always waving—good-bye.
She rode the waves of self-destruction
like a wahine surfing a blue volt.
Hark! I hear the sounds of reproduction!
(The MINOTAUR sits in the soundproof booth)
Kalevala! Nokia! Aki Kaurismäki!