The blue shade of barbicide has always been my favorite color.
I was a boy and would get haircuts and spellbound by combs
suspended a lot like millipede specimens in liquefied lollipop.
Once, as my mother jawed with the barber, I galloped back
to the vanity and plunged my thumb in the slimy cerulean dazzle.
My mother noticed right before I licked my finger and yelled,
Do not dare put that thumb in your mouth! It’ll make you sick!
It tasted like bug repellant. I grew sick, as she predicted.
I didn’t want to get sick, but her grave shout frightened me,
A fright demanding an act of defiance that would, like a magic
potion, make sweet what stung and burned my tongue.
I hated my mother for only an hour or two, but how hot that hate
burned, black like the cloud of my bangs on the tile, and deep
as the dizzying sea she once held me up to see that was technically
just a lake, but still big, and so cold, I told her, until you get used to it.
Against me, the house, always winning.
Raw deals compel my hand to shake paws
with any sharp that hails me– I can’t afford
caution yellow. I’ll bet that crude school
bus is a balloon, a stuffed sabretooth, steered
by a rad mutineer, a Jain. How I heave my
body into traffic’s most promising lane.
I forget the weight and balance of a club,
having strayed from all that for what felt
a more sound investment in the long run.
I heard it was just as fun, like a magical
vase you replenish with your dread’s four
o’clock flowers–that one Spring I’ll sing
and splash in virtue’s fountains of hazard.
I’d wager, like any gambit, any listing
Maersk freighter, my weird luck drifts, darkens,
too true to be good, too deep to skim, its gold
holds a swindle when bit, I’m afraid– Lord,
if you’re free: I know it’s not your department,
but I miss your deck of playing cards, the one
with only red suits, only diamonds, only hearts.
The milk was haunted;
night had come before day’s
end and taken our talisman.
I woke with a migraine
with a hornet a fridge
full of undeveloped film.
By autumn we’d brood
like gypsies in mourning
our magic fiddle unstrung.
I horsed around all year,
hyper off the lucre
fizzling in my quik.
A gummy coat the
mug lost in the washer.
Another stain glass arachnid
casing the awkward nooks
of the master bedroom suite.
I spoke in circles
of smoke rituals
of angels’ roulette in the clouds.
Show us where it happened
take us to the farm
lead us to the source.
When you arrived
all the instruments
I had went haywire.
By day we slept and
when it grew dark
distilled night liquor
of lunar quiet pooling
of mock pewter.
In the commandments, in the
index, we are galloping, we are
our shadows nearly touching at the hoof.
A bloodhound was bred
and we fed her
and named her Niacin.
A subtle superstition
indigenous religious cults
safekeep in the glove box.
A scroll of television
we used to scribble
in all kinds of colors.
That following night
hand to god
every last home on fire.
Now can we please
move on, like we
saw the sparrows do?
Finally, you swear off
skim, and then one day
I start feeling things again.
sadly my children are growing up to be real characters
There was Mean Luther and Melvin, his goon, his lover,
the ones who terrorized poor Ray and Betty Smock all night,
Chester and his empregada by the campfire and cauldron
of boiling feijoada that he kicked in the legs for intentional sloth.
There was Zaidakash at the landfill who Nina swore was no
raccoon by how smooth he spoke, as fluent in the tongue as
Felix and Pauly and the platinum birthday balloon on the lam
in the sky that made them both a little blue, a tad magical.
There was a pattern, if not an order. If not history, trauma.
The groundwater leaching Mercury made him nervous, amid
all the chickweed choking her field, many secrets buried–
Charlie Maple and Wendy, there were a couple Wendys, one
run down as the other was crowned with a screwed-in halo.
Camellia and her Brom, with his ghastly looks, though beauty’s
taste, so if not ugly or brutish certainly damaged, the sort that
leaves skin without blemish, that was Camellia’s doom and
her spark’s source, making light of Brom and Brom’s inopportune crying
problem. And these are just the memorable ones. All the
bodies, with all their mangled parts, the bodies that all went down
the body hole veiled by the corrugated iron coverlet, the one
burrowing black in the backyard flowerbed plot, the body hole
I stole from a story on Isis, Iraq, all the I words that fit after
cramming down the bulge with a dump truck, the very one that
hauled them all in, had breath. Learned to crawl, just to get all
tangled up in the limbs of thorny problems, even Chester, with his
humpty dumpty hammer, his habit of huffing glue–though he had
none, he was a real character––a somebody who would continually stress
what keeps the captain at the wheel and the rescue party so dark
and thrilling is a purebred hunger, a real cruel hook, and a hiding place,
which is difficult to swallow if you value the plain flesh of English–
they were somebodies, yes, with somebody’s grievance, each of them an I
of a sort, animated, troubled, concocting, candlelit, playing the vile
role given them, believing themselves a good fit. there were pitchforks,
if not hell, if not firmament, a father, an I, but not me. me loves you.
Tariq Shah is the author of Whiteout Conditions (Two Dollar Radio, 2020). His chapbook, ‘heart assist device,’ was a finalist for the 2019 no, dear/small anchor press chapbook series. A Best of the Net award nominee, his work appears in or is forthcoming from DIAGRAM, jubilat, Heavy Feather Review, Shirley Magazine, No, Dear Magazine, and New Moons: Contemporary Writing by North American Muslims Anthology edited by Kazim Ali (Red Hen Press, Nov 2021).