"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison


FRESH LEGS, MASKS FOR FACIAL DISFIGUREMENT DEPARTMENT, and IT SEEMS THE MEN

FRESH LEGS, MASKS FOR FACIAL DISFIGUREMENT DEPARTMENT, and IT SEEMS THE MEN

FRESH LEGS

I forgot this morning
I broke my leg
until I tried to crawl from bed
in a hospital upstate
and fell. You had to call the nurse
and scream, because
you could not scream

at me, collapsed on the sterile
linoleum and wanting you
here instead of her. And just wanting a little
drink of water to relieve myself, I caught one
quick impression of how
I have grown
so demented, and you
so callous

and how even
before, we only used
the truth in anger. But this forgetting
is gentle to me, each moment distant
and unverified. I am never in this bed,
this gown, this body, where you
left me. I am lost

in the half-formed dreams
of some early life, on an island
for mothers where their children
and husbands carry them
in an endless loop of feeling, a lack
of thought breeding forgiveness.

 

 

MASKS FOR FACIAL DISFIGUREMENT DEPARTMENT

The wounded are calling
for water. It makes
me thirsty, but not
wounded. Some
are calling mother, my loins
still barren. My thirst
unbearable. If they could just
bring a little drink
of water, I could stand

their bleating. Here,
in this man
-made trench, I write:
"An orgy of violence / is still an orgy."
Here, I scribble:
"This body is an ossuary."
It must differ greatly,
living in no man
's land. They must
make terrible art.

Truly despicable
art. Their idea
of a joke is yelling
"Look ma, no hands!"
Cue laughs. Cue imitation
of clapping with stumps.
Anyone without hands
could do that. Try finding something funny
about having hands. I haven't.

 

 

IT SEEMS THE MEN

here have turned upon each other.
They stuff their tongues in each
other’s mouths the way
you stuff a gas-soaked rag into the open

tank of a stolen car. And I watch
the way you watch
a flame insinuate itself
into the rag, work itself up
the damp cloth, invite
itself inside. Full

of passion
or just aggression, eager
to burn their fingerprints
from the interior, desperate
not to leave their fingerprints behind,
ready to tear their clothes

from their bodies and toss
them in the fire. As if
in burning, they could erase
all evidence of a crime, or else
they just kiss men
the way men kiss.


Daniel Tompkins was raised in Virginia and putzed around in the army for several years before completing a degree in creative writing at Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn with his dog, Chewie, who is very cross-eyed. Instagram: @Officialpaddysfan

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

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