Alan Gilbert


Poem Without a Coda

             The music ended before the band stopped
playing, as we pantomime our quiet disappointments
with a smile sifting the years through sharpened
metal colanders, asking, If it's organic, does that
mean we can eat it? Planes

                                            and blimps fly low over
the house to avoid spacecraft preparing a global
holiday light show featuring famous U.S. presidents
enjoying Coca-Cola snowcones, cued to the sky
fading from slate blue to black.

             If being infatuated with the idea of tube
socks but not actual tube socks makes me a Platonist,
then I'll take three pairs to go, because I'm only
in this for the money and complimentary hors d'oeuvres
incorporating gag-reflex

                                            suppressants, as angels
and spiders crawl on my face, tracing their own
partially haphazard flights of desire, their digitally
altered exit wounds scratching a scanner's polished

             Each day we try to do a little bit better,
and end up staying the same. Each day we look
for something other than what's been taken away.
It's destruction that compels us to destroy while
cherishing big top fantasies

                                            of mortars bouncing off
the circus tent as the ringmaster's wireless mic
glistens with popcorn butter and massage oil—
whatever it takes to keep initiation rituals hidden
behind a lace curtain patched with a satisfying read.

             I don't know how I lived so long without
you, and yet I still don't live with you, so let
the honeysuckles take all the dew. For better
and for worse, bodies are permeable structures,
and what gets in cells

                                            has trouble getting out.
Paper hangers twist with clothes wet enough
to collect sediment on walking tours of what
remains unspoken; otherwise, wax the astronaut's
lifejacket cords for flossing after splashdown.

             It's called home-for-now; then it spills
over into what looks like tomorrow, with its
bandana worn over the neck, mouth, or hair.
Sometimes I just sit there and stare. Language
floods the gaps and jingles

                                            the hedges, leaving
watermarks around the gravediggers' wrists
bound with cellophaned variety packs while
foraging sex's dumpster. The prettiest calendars
are made from dryer lint in gradual dispersion.

             When the electric garage door opened,
the teenage punks tumbled out with their squirrel
guns. I hung back with the plastic trash cans.
A product recall press conference was like a quiz
show in which contestants

                                            had to guess the wrong
answer: grey flags, donkey filets, age spots, and
Dewar's. Thankfully, there was a potato and set
of false teeth in the refrigerator. Please warm
before inserting.


Hi, Fidelity

I'm learning what the satellites teach me after they
rendered the wingdancers obsolete
along with their cracked piņata shower of hard candy
and toy soldiers

tying tourniquets improvised from treadmill belts.
Cartoon versions await our future,
our closets' stinging bee collections, put in the back
seat and driven with

the rest of our hearts into oncoming traffic stalled
in front of an aquarium supply store
and its grand opening stabbed or grabbed shrimp

I'm found outside of me—a part of stars    a shovel
patting soil    cash register    classroom
with their posted menus of unzipped ribcages
and paper jams.

Earphones leak with digital bird songs and scheduled
bathroom-break spreadsheets.
But I'll never forget those quiet summer days with
you, resting

my head on the chest of the beefcake formerly known
as Valentine's Day, while outside,
leaves clap wildly in the wind. The theater is hosed
down after the movie's

done, like a bridge encrusted with wishes where
a car went over scraping fluorescent
lights strung from a dropped ceiling. I wish I could
unravel time

while sitting immobile during those moments
of dramatic change waving a knife
in my face, or maybe it was the drunks sunning
themselves in

the angular glow of light sabers, in the chance to
cook casseroles for children and
crows. You're right, there are very good reasons
to be either afraid

or fall asleep. Who let the dogs in? Sometimes
the only weapons are words during
a trip to the quarry with its mine disaster machines
slowly scraping

along the edge of commands that some Americans
have for all Americans, a cracked
ruler drawing attention to chalkboard maps and
framed pictures

of kittens. You call it quality control; I call it
discarded, a broken-back smile
and nod that air conditions fiberglass coffins tasting
like Playstation

cartridges and the code for digital hardcore. Flies
bounce off the window, cracking
their black chandeliers spoken with a tongue previously
all teeth surrounded

by biographies and travel guides splitting infinitives
between them. High school students
intern at prisons. Talk show transcripts download
into a spam-ridden

inbox. Put the groceries on a credit card, and we'll
figure out how to pay for them later,
as well as the lawnmower and the carwash's optional

full-ashtray fragrance spray. No wonder I was always
nauseous while pregnant. I ate
a whole can of stewed tomatoes with a lead spoon.
Leonard Nimoy

dropped by to wash the few dishes. Serving size
is irrelevant to take out, because
belief isn't really the issue. Sophie knows both
love and monsters,

but can't see electricity. She doesn't understand
the concept of giving up. A garden
blooms fuller each year. The sidewalk's patchwork
diverted skateboarders

to rooftops. Lunar moths push bark shopping carts
rating hair-parts from non-existent
to severe comb-over. Despite the subtle fingernail
tugging, nothing

else seemed to matter, certainly not for the small
but active online community
of happy cat slappers. I looked up to see a river
flowing over

my head, then a nation's daguerreotypes archived
in a glass-bottomed boat. The brick
wall is painted a different color each year. Sheets
of paper drift against

a sky of blue valances striping bones like candy.
The stranger is a neighbor. Discount
stores close for the night, with its stretched signals,
its thinning beetles.