Three Poems

by Jon Riccio

Smog Years

“Discotheque,” says the contortionist,
yesterday’s gymnast-defector presented
as a human mirror ball to a ceiling
in search of a neck. Arches tessellated,
reverb dappling the gyre, vertebra mistaken
for stucco at the first hint of heat.

“Discotheque,” says the hustler everyone
thinks is an artist, swizzle sticks coaxing
the akimbo of his cheek. East side, twentyish.
Curates a metal zoo. His voice, a showroom
of phonemes and rasp. The turn it takes
at mention of a soldered lynx. Five tricks
in and no closer to a benefactor than he was
escorting pinstripes uptown. Phylum: rent boy.
Aluminum habitat. Thrives off of a false scorch.

“Discotheque,” says the butane salesman’s wife,
mascara preceding an iris, tubes tied in a double-
Windsor wraith. Something oil refinery about
husband number one. His elbows. His age. No
way to negotiate petroleum with thrombosis. Better
the riskier bathwater, acetylene squeezed like shampoo.

“Discotheque,” says the hanger-on, chaff hitched
to a paparazzo’s nape decades before the shrine
gift shop three hours north. Note the dividends
on martyred, gradients of cloistered affixed
to mailbox ink. Lately, a simulacrum enveloping
the water tank. Maybe Judas, maybe genus,
construction season mellowing the yard
where they found a Carmelite’s scalp.

“Discotheque,” says the grifter when I’m conceived,
some tambour of confluence parsed through
clubland flumes. Her dulcet, his foment.
The mirror ball observing an exodus’s
confidence in a Celsius. The smog,
an immolation’s codex; its fumes
contorting their own.

Riddle of the Insect Officejet

Because her name is Sassafras.
Because you put the dog down
after a Natalie Portman movie.

HR, a bureau and a box of Kleenex.
The piazza, little more than a birdbath,

but they have flex spending,
a room of paper shredders,
a printer named Firefly,

an emeritus chair who testifies,

“Battery acid doesn’t go around
corroding waitresses, at least not ours.”

And you work for a plant.


Adam’s apple parallel with the ceiling fan,
he swigs from a two liter of Rockstar Recovery,
nothing arena-filling in the energy drink’s
sloe-grenade fizz or its B-vitamin clout.
Rumors of electrolytes swirl his larynx,
another nonrefundable joins the kitchen stretch
occupied by phonebook and cooling rack. Old
area codes loiter like crumbs of key chains,

multiple sclerosis constricts his throat, the wind-
pipe sops what it can. Medicine stubble camped
in his trachea, a deluge washing down as if
centuries of supermarkets could restore the myelin
sheath or sand the headboards that join upstairs
furniture seeping into the den, his nervous system
winnowed when he says, “I hope my corneas
go to someone with more road rage than me.”

Condensation sullies names of states on the bottle’s
return horizon, abbreviations for Maine, Oregon
and New York misspelling memory. With each
sip, the silo’s vitality guaranteed. Cold lettering,
a sleeker boost; cracks in the glass-bottom boat
wondering how best to translate that pull-tab sound.

Jon Riccio studied viola performance at Oberlin College and the Cleveland Institute of Music. An MFA candidate at the University of Arizona, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in CutBank, Paper Nautilus, Blast Furnace, Stone Highway Review, Qwerty and elsewhere. He coordinates the Tucson-based WIP Reading Series and serves as the 2014/15 poetry editor at Fairy Tale Review.

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