PETER JAY SHIPPY
Peter Jay Shippy was born in Niagara Falls, New York and raised
on his family's apple farm. His book, Thieves' Latin won the 2002
Iowa Poetry Prize. He has new poems appearing in: The American
Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Jacket and also
Verse. An e-book, Alphaville, will be available from BlazeVOX
books (www.blazevox.org) in 2006. Shippy is on the faculty of
Emerson College in Boston.
The hospital had a dedicated room
for dead letters. Most of the mothers
were named Svetlana. From our window
we could see the Chrysler Building. For years
I transposed one drop for another.
The TV played live-feeds from the underground
parking garage. My worms bit their apples.
Mom replayed the video of my birth
so often that I learned to karaoke
before I could speak. After midnight
my father returned to light pine candles
and quell the soviets in the airshaft.
Did I mention that this debriefing
is being transcribed onto a black marble?
Yes, we'll insert this into an orphan's
mouth so we can track my movements.
After a time I learned to turn the handle
and fez my monkey and press my best suit
and press the buttons and button my lip.
We lived a full-day's sail away. Our boat
was called, "Wet Dream." I slept in the crow's nest.
I tasted the air for white wings. Shark-dolphin
hybrids followed us, hoping we'd overboard
old New Yorkers. The island's doughnut shape
made it difficult to boil milk or grow
Raman noodles. My mother got work
at a small theatre that played only films
that had been nominated for the Oscar
in sound production. I named my Manx Klute.
My mother learned to transcribe the music
of the island's knitting octagon.
The clicks from their fish-bone needles could mend
broken bones and seduce one-clawed crabs.
School was a breeze; I worked like a charm.
I met a future wife when I was fourteen.
She was a ghost who haunted the glassblower's
workshop. She was convinced her sister
was coming back as a ship in a bottle.
For our first date we went to see The Devil
at 4 O'clock where convict Frank Sinatra
and fallen priest Spencer Tracy race
a volcano to save leper children
played by leper children. When the film snapped
my mother gave a lecture on the sensuous
faithlessness of Dolby. I could see
that my spook was fading so we agreed
to meet on the moon in two hundred years.
It's an awful big satellite, I said,
how will I find you? She kissed my cheek
and whispered, We'll be the only two
wearing our own heads. Unchangingly
is a very nice word - isn't it?
Are you receiving? Is this the errata
that may, over millennia, decay
into a strata of fuel? Would you
like to know about my black velvet cape?
Can I show you how to dance the jellyfish?
At dawn, would you like to cast the first stone
across the mint green sea? Your Guidebook says
that when I turn one hundred I'll deliver
an unmarked letter to the hospital
where I was hatched. It will be a Friday.
Would you like to tell me what to write?
The Second World
The timothy grass is in seed. The butter moths
turn in the wind. The timbers from the first barn
were salvaged and made into a hope chest.
The fruitwood is puckered with lace bugs.
Inside: finger cymbals, a child's arm cast,
a sheaf of charcoal sketches of snail shells,
an empty vial, a swatch of elbow
from a Levi's jacket and a jam jar
of volcano smoke. My iterant thoughts
are degrading. My eyes throb like owls.
From here I can see the path that tricks
out to a broad faced headland that overlooks
the sea. Let me catch you out there and I'll
lick you clean as spyglass - then we'll see.
The dawn scrambles the sea
into eggs and beer - locust light.
The village is bleak, lord knows,
but sweet that way Gomorrah
was sweet after the tourists
finally went September, back
to Boston and New York.
If you want to stay warm
find the darkest pocket
and make like an afterimage.
Sip coffee. Scam a cig
for later. Look at the bodies
at the counter and guess
who's coming and who's
going hollow and dell.
I kick snow from a stone
at Holy Ark's graveyard
and sit and take my air.
Pitch light. The moon is breath
fading from a window.
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