Six Poems

Ben Austin

As a classic American prank,
I threw your phone next to a Dish Network receptor
on the wobbly roof of a dilapidated barn
that was slowly turning to fungus,
the kind with an oozing, red, viscous defense mechanism.

I shouted at you,
“I’ve lived on nothing but dreams and train smoke,”
as if my favorite treat in the whole world
were a pig appendix stuffed with blood sausage
of the same animal, surrounded by collard greens
on a blue plate washed with an infected sponge.





The ants, even with all their intelligence,
kept drinking the gasoline,
while paying no attention
to the bodies behind the curtain.

They would have settled for the silver-plated
version of their organs or a certificate for ingenuity.
Living in the sawdust was looked back on as
“ill-advised,” like George Washington said a lot.

They had half-awake dreams about sleeping positions,
adding up the comfort of one body part
and subtracting the soreness from the day’s work.
A few starved inside a pool raft with several cup holders.





An inbox of flimsy disks, wrinkled mail for dead people,
after the master class on how to jump fences,
I said “bye” from under the covers, miles away.
You were sure only criminals changed the world.
You took the term “costume party” way too far;
why did you want to get under people’s fingernails?
You do want to breed a little recklessness into kids, right?

You tended to be perfect when you were really loud,
loud enough to embarrass me in public,
but loud enough to make me not care about anything,
even getting shot in the face or turning into steam.

We’re just those nails on the underside of a roof
that nobody bothers to flatten out or snip off;
I guess they serve a load-bearing purpose,
or they would have been sorted out years ago
by experts with flashlights on their foreheads, right?





The hot goss was that he called me a femme-o-phile;
it meant I had a tropical purse, not much else,
and I was friends with him
only because he threw confetti in public
at 9:00 a.m. and midnight just as often.

On the way back, you diagnosed me
with a swollen brain from juicing too many vegetables,
as if I were an Adderal on a creaky fire escape,
staring through the grating, flames nipping my ass.

Everything you do reminds me
that people can legitimately
punch first and ask questions later;
there will be a “later” after a bunch of left hooks,
like a theatrical altercation with only one arm involved,
skipping haymakers, knuckles and cheeks
incorrectly routed into a mixer, numb ears in the output.





Why did you let a tender, young hooligan
drown in that prehistoric river?
Everyone you knew sat on the grass
eating pesto sandwiches like transgressive paintings
and let him struggle in the rapids, disappearing slowly,
but anyone who could swim could’ve retrieved him.

People think amoebic prehistory was apathetic
until humans got around to investing in caring,
but it’s when you fall asleep at the “future” switch
in a time machine that those underground ogres
start to have character, no matter what they’re up to,
with their bunkers, lava, and retro cottage industries.





Don’t ever let me tell that story again:
the foul ball in a soda cup
or the praying mantis on the car hood, torn up.

That parking lot smelled colder than strip malls,
no phones available, fell teeth first on the curb.
In space everyone can hear you scream who matters,
at least that’s the conclusion we found waiting.

Don’t ever let me tell you that story again:
a garden hose through the window
or the Amazonian spider attached to your back,
tone of a boxer, tired, worried about buying clothes.