Jack Pendarvis Reads
Small Gifts Found to Influence Doctors
For the dermatologist, begging an instant cure
for this chronic itch, I've listed
a small trilobite fossil in a clear plastic box.
My brain surgeon will go gaga
for this Mickey Mouse flip book,
fascination of animation, pages whirring by.
If I brought flowers, would more options be offered?
Would fingers linger longer on my pulse?
These things can be difficult—
to find, I mean. Small and influential gifts—
Golf balls won't do!
They want things special
as the rare diagnosis.
So I'm on a scavenger hunt:
A bag of widgeon feathers.
A morel mushroom sandwich.
A tiny wind-up hula doll. Nemadji
salt cellar with blue and orange swirls.
A brass slide-whistle.
Cricket cage. Courage.
The nurses, I'm guessing, prefer fluffy
slippers to flip-flops. They don't fuss.
The chiropractor will like this wooden box
of dice, the illegal ivory cubes neatly aligned
across the green velvet inside.
To gentle the hygienist, a collectible, antique penny,
the rare copper one from '43. This is more
than a simple exchange. This marketplace
is where I live.
The oncologist gets a whole ox.
For the otolaryngologist
I am seeking an exquisite, miniature
But maybe I've gone overboard—
Back in the good old days, all you needed
to show you meant business
was a single, extravagant chicken.
by: MaryAnn Franta Moenck
LORD OF THE STREAM
Over the years, the stream has left
grooves in the broad stone shelf
like the marks a knife might have made
in a pad of butter. It’s as old as water is
and has passed the babbling age. Leaves choke the surface,
and a wide pool has begun to back up
with a scum floating on it
hazy as bilge. A bottle of Corona, neck reaching out
like a proud duck, dandies, hangs up on a rock,
but cans of Miller Lite
are the three-to-one favorite.
And there he is, the lord of the stream,
laughing at some private joke
as he balances on a shopping cart.
With a stone–blue eye,
he studies the jesters and supplicants
who enter the court of his imagination.
Don’t intrude on the laughter of such a one.
Keep your head down.
Return, if you can, the way you came
along the banks of this urban stream.
by: David Salner
THE LIBRARIAN OF EVERYDAY LIFE
To hell with the Dewey Decimal System
and those faint numbers on spine after spine!
Let's read the people, instead—like the old man
who is lifting to the check-out counter, with all his strength,
a volume called Stay Young, Lift Weights. The next patron
returns a book called The Face of God and the latest issue
of Runners World. The significance of random events
will never be lost on a savvy librarian, who traces connections
casual more than causal. As closing approaches,
the lights flicker in warning, and the librarian
knows who will emerge from the shadows
of fiction, from between those shelves laden with
mystery and romance, the two basic genres
of everyday life. Now comes the jewel—the secret life
of this man. His co-workers on night-shift
consider him stuffy and boring—but the librarian
gets to place a card in his book and steal a glimpse
at the title: Liberating Your Inner Comedian.
by: David Salner
To My Daughter
You laugh and I
the morning, which fell
heavier than watermelons
and all the T.S. Eliot I read.
You laugh and I
reconsider the world,
which could be flat now
that it unfolds like butter
at your feet.
and I reconsider
time, which evaporates
at the sight
of your two front teeth.
by: Zeina Hashem Beck
I sit between a manufactured blond
and gloomy broker who says his mother
died tonight of liver cancer.
The comedian, effete and bald,
cracks raunchy jokes
as we drain our Hurricanes,
buckle over and guffaw.
Soon we sing state songs and weep,
so drunk, we weep without wincing
for our homeland, our states!
During momentary lulls
in our sequined merriment
we notice cracked plumes of the blues
leaking in from the joint next door
where a few crippled and blind old men
have gathered like battered crows
to blow into old dented horns
that alchemize their breath into beauty.
by: Louis J. Gallo
Before we get to the heavy talk of death,
listen to my friend Francis who,
years after her husband’s passing, enjoys messing
“I love it when they call and ask for David.
‘I’m sorry, this is his widow’ usually shuts
them up, but sometimes (and this is really
the greatest) they don’t listen and ask
when he’ll be back. ‘Well,’ I say, ‘
I don’t think he’ll be back today
and I’ll deliver your message,
but it’ll be a while till I see him.
I’m sure they weren’t expecting such
theological profundity when all they wanted
was for me to switch long distance companies.”
She doesn’t (and shouldn’t) feel a bit guilty.
These callers are cockroaches, and forget
the “they’re just messengers” plea:
they known damn well when we’re
sitting down for dinner.
And, let’s not think of David’s as “too early.”
Be grim and recognize his as “quicker than
ours” since every second we live is really
another tic in our lifetime-long death scene.
Each breath whittles us away until we get
to the primal pebble of our being,
and then flung into. . .
. . . well, I don’t want to get into a children’s
Sunday School lesson, and I’d like to avoid
the nihilistic imagery cold ground as a period
at the end of life’s convoluted paragraph.
I just want to imagine Francis finally
meeting back up with David, the exchange
of hugs, and his laugh booming
as he hears the messages his bride has
been waiting so long to deliver.
by: James Dickson
They say the difference between
tragedy and comedy is timing,
but maybe there’s more. Like when Jane
offers this joke: You know what
all battered women have in common?
The bruises on her face have faded
into an ugly mustard like old bookpaper.
And after a perfect pause, she delivers the punch
line— They don’t fucking listen!—striking
her hand with each stressed syllable
that mimics Bill’s drunken rage.
She smiles, dotted with ointment and irony,
but I see her swollen eye wince at each slap
of her hand on the other, each sound
pulling at the upturned corners of her mouth.
by: James Dickson
A Person of Interest
When the television newscaster said
the police were searching for
a person of interest
I wondered if that might be me.
I wondered if I might be,
a person of interest.
I have always been a suspect,
I suspect, in crimes I’ve never confessed.
A criminal involved from the start in unsolved cases
of premeditated larceny of the heart.
My record a litany of melancholy felonies
I’ve committed and have not admitted to.
An accomplice in original sin,
a receiver of stolen kisses,
a Siamese twin cat burglar
anxiously awaiting someone to release
an all points bulletin for him.
My hands are bloodied from killing time,
and I’m ready to confess all my crimes.
I shot off my mouth and killed my chances.
I shot the messenger and buried his body
on the grounds of the abandoned amusement park.
There are skeletons in my closet.
I am a serial killer of dreams
who has buried the hatchet I used.
I have made so many shots in the dark
and readily admit to shooting for the moon.
I pray someone will catch me soon and
I will gladly confess at my arrest
to being a person of interest.
by: Jack Conway