3 Poems | Andrew Wetmore

Cancer
We laid on our backs and pulled shapes from the sky
like reading the letters out of porno magazines.
You had all your vaccinations and went to Sunday school every Sunday.
You memorized your catechism and realized you were witnessing an execution
When I walk down the street
widows throw signs warding against the evil eye.

You counted stars
I counted generations saying,
“He begat he, who begat he, who begat he,”
until my teeth fell out
and my tongue was parched
and a flag flew for me at half-mast.
I have seen an oceans bottom
but you took your foot from my head and let me up for air
begging off early complaining
of leg cramps and an inflammation of the joints

This is the moment between takes,
before the antacids kick in and you
can smile for the first time all day.
No one here is an athlete or pregnant with your son
and I am sitting behind you
eyes ahead
parallel to standing stones of
concrete and steel

((((psychosomatic coughing spells))))

until I see someone who shares my features
and I sit up a little straighter.

I’m sorry you’re here
and I’m sorry you came.
You walk in spaces where no one collides,
smallpox scars and a lazy eye.
Looking at heaven sent in minimum wage
a double chin rendered on your sleeping face.
I do not believe in revenge.

Do you see the men in line?
Each one is only passing their days until they get cancer.
Every year more cancer.
Soon even malignancy will be usual and benign
and Eunuchs will slip through the windows
to perform surgery on the sleeping.
Him?
He is building a chain link fence from safety pins,
says it’s safer that way,
like an idiot savant writing formulas on granite counters.

Yes,
I saw that picture,
and no,
it was not me.
But I am sure anybody could have made that mistake.

((((after the rain no wind blew))))

I hope you kept all of your lottery tickets.
There are eight men now at a back table,
heads together.
They will rob you of your lithographs and
hang them from the prison walls,
on question marks and concertina wires.
Parking meters rust.
Fingernails break on funeral bouquets.

Once a month here they sell holy relics
and burn the pulpits,
drunk on the fumes of
smoldering onion skins.
Our guest speaker took one look at this crowd
and shot herself with a flare gun.
We hid her in the attic behind
the overhead projectors,
the ones that haven’t been used since the Reagan era.

Please stop whispering into the telephone.
The currents make the stoplights sway.
Skyscrapers are merely headstones
for every avenue that leads to them.
Post office box mausoleums.
Paraplegic stratagems, marketing schemes, and
corporate business models shredded
and used as kindling.
These are signs of something better
like a meaningful glance in a welfare line.

I’ve worn out my welcome in this motel,
not to be confused with some lost city
found as the combines tear at the asphalt
forcing cockroaches to find new homes.
The truck drivers are on strike,
refusing to pull their own weight.
Crossing guards swear vendettas against
exhaust pipes speeding by.

And over your shoulder a teenage Constantine,
with no mustaches, waves frantically
trying to get your attention.
The car contracted pneumonia and died.
It’s another night of red wine and vodka.
Yesterday’s blasting caps made it rain
across the block and,
holding up newspapers in their defense
young mothers rush into the shelters
of awnings advertising
all night diners and hair removal.

((((a girl on a bicycle blew a kiss at an old man))))

There is a murder daily at the bus stop next to the surgical supply store.
That is where I catch the bus
northbound.
Yes, I am nervous.
I have been drinking ammonia and bleach together
trying to make my fingerprints clean.
By the end of summer my tattoos were changed
and I waited in the alley for cancer.

The dementia of the young.
I opened a trade circular and read only the comics and my horoscope,
then ran back to bed
whimpering.

Superman is dead to me now.
He is coprophilous
and living in a secret world of airport bars
boring the girls with card tricks.

She hung herself in the basement of her mother’s house
after casting with tea leaves and tarot cards.
I saw water being born
though no one calls it by it’s given name.
The neighborhood watch is poisoning the neighborhood children
with easy dogmas scrawled on
sports related memorabilia.

Silver buckles on your Sunday shoes
so everywhere you walk, even the sidewalk must beg alms.
Let us find a new face on the light switch.
Show me the charm against the changing of the guards,
the one that wards off cancer.

The ocean is in a paper cup held
by a subway eccentric in the basking glow
of the headlights.
And if I draw myself older
with my shirt buttoned wrong, would you still notice the cancer?

What if I am standing by the last payphone
in the city,
the one covered in graffiti
in Chinatown
by the El-Stop?

Bounty Hunter Blues
I took strength from the saline
injected in the tattered inflamed membranes
fingers with the fish eyes
minced miniscule paper pieces
and for twenty minutes breathed freely.
My spine sent no signals;
smoke, shortwave, or otherwise.

Follow the fliers of cotillion kites.
Can’t you hear the faint rap
floor to floor and feeble now
that the seraphim have holstered
their crude weaponry, single shot
revolvers held festering like a
splinter underneath a blister.

I took strength from the steroid
solution taken subcutaneously, just
slightly below the follicles of gray hair
and scrapings from this morning’s burnt toast.
Was I dying before I found the manacles
unlocked? I cannot cast my memories
upon it without hitting a void

deeper than Morlock Holes or
missile silos now filled with concrete.
Cough drops and mentholated rubs
applied three times every six hours,
or less if an applicable heart condition is present.
Oh, High King Gravedigger, Prince of Dirt,
have you cleared a spot, slightly rectangular

for yourself, or do you deign the work beneath you
and order others with more calloused hands
and eyebrows more sunburned to shovel?
I myself could never stand the headache
of bleaching bones in the claw foot tub.
Call in the robber barons, handsome and grave,
the ones with the graven images of Thor,

son of thunder, embossed upon their wine skins.
It’s been flaccid here since the last
sons of bitches pulled up their unchained anchors
and shoved off in to the chlamydia night
of the Book of Psalms. Chapter and verse
and it tastes like quartz and mica
and the ocean smells like semen, you know.

I hope that it makes you blind
when you finally see the candle wax
in a bowl of isopropyl alcohol taking
the shape of a non-human brain,
a shoat’s or a weasel’s or a coyote’s
still howling out a message to siblings
sprinkling black powder over mirrors.

We cannot stop here amid the blank chalkboards
of Cheyenne territory, circling kestrels and
turkey buzzards giving thanksgiving. Tarred and
feathered February comes with Cupid’s bow mouths.
Dear, dear, polyglots can you hear the hooves
of Brahman bulls, the orgy of tachycardia likely
to push up the diastolic to a breaking point?

I took strength from the saline
shot into the salmon rippled mainstream
pale as Navajo white walls on a race car
sending apologies to all for keeping daylight hidden
under too many minutes. This was all an elaborate
ritual hoax, now sneaking out the back door
where I lay in wait to collect a bounty.

What David Koresh At Last Said to Leviathan
I have come for you
nothing here is held equal
before the doors of your teeth,
bared and stripped of their outer coats.
I have been ground by a proud millstone
until the haughty rocks in my chest
have been made smooth and shined
like the first rays of dawn
poured over with fresh lamp oil.
I am sorry, sir, if I am speaking too loud,
but constantly my ears ring
and the movements of my throat
get consumed and drowned
by that alloyed squeal.

You told me,
and I must remember,
that not all fire consumes.
The fires of hell
are freezing and will diminish you.
God knows that frost withers
faster than flame.
You, sir, are a flame hotter than
a west Texas sun that never sets
and I never forget a face
even those that I have seen only once.
They attempt to make a pet of me,
chattel to be paraded at the end of some
gray haired woman’s leash, and we
shall make them remember
that which can never be done again.

The ringing of this phone
is now the sound of the seventh angel
sounding the seventh trumpet
at the opening of the seventh seal.
I assure you this
and have built myself up
with potsherds and porcelain and iron.
And I know their number,
and the number of our enemies,
and the temperature at which pine boards smolder,
and the temperature which they turn to ice.

But sir, here,
I have come here to free your hooks
and seek your gentle word.
To keep you free from the hands of slaves
and the tips of spears.
I have come to salt your coat
and free reins and bridle.
To light the incense for the altar
from your breath alone;
you who are king over all who are proud
and I, humble servant
broken on your shielded back.

Now know that my side has been pierced
like it was once before, before I was reborn.
Lead and vinegar and salt water.
The smell of highway exhaust
and the sound of hooves and engines.
I have come,
and nothing has followed behind me.
Not Babylon or it’s gardens.
Not hell or it’s cold fire.
Not chemical dust in a thrashing wind.
Not slung stones, cast by a sheepherders sinew.
Not a single note of lonely music.

I have come alone to watch you pull the world under
and to sit singing in your belly
at the bottom of the ocean;
a prophet not running from the words
of our master, made real.
And together, sir, we will wait the comet and the key,
the column and the anchor.
To wait for the nails to unpierce and for the sea to boil.
For you I have come.

And all must hear that I am no longer sorry
my hands are no longer unblemished.
I smell of cordite and urine and the
smoke from your nostrils has risen
like sackcloth over the moon
and all have forsaken me but you, Leviathan.
And I will be your banner man,
your open palm and your closed fist.
I, your jagged and chewed nail.
Take me where you must and may
and I will choke on the vapors of your eyes
and I will laugh at those who curse me,
for they will curse the day that they
have roused us up and be dashed to pieces.

For you I will give my body,
broken, and my eyes, eclipsed,
as food to the creatures of the wilderness
in need of sustenance to last through
the cruel months, April and October.
All manner of things created on
the fifth day may partake in my arms
and my legs and my torso and my face
until my carcass has been gnawed down
to unintelligible bone and made
devoid of all features.

Tonight, sir, tonight, here,
may they fall to sleep and
may the odor of my flesh be about them,
they and their pregnant wives
clothed in the spartan sun as
we have been clothed in their pitiful hatred.
My home is now a haunt for
jackals and the slothful and the lame
and I, your squire, covered in burns,
tightly sealed together, seamless,
have come to turn steel bars
into blades of grass, bent back upon themselves
as to show the trail of our exodus.

Sir, I am your supplicant,
a proud and worthy acolyte
ready for pious service.
Let those who are not anointed
part when they feel the slightest
wind in the wake of my passing,
and let them whisper of me that
I have found you at last Leviathan,
highest among all creations
unbridled still and as wrathful as I.
I have come.
I have come.
I have come.

———–
Andrew Wetmore is a poet based out of Anaheim, California. He has self-published 4 chapbooks, with two more on the way. His work has appeared in City Brink. He can be found at his website.

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Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, poetry, and creative nonfiction from marginalized creators.

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