by Mark Parsons
Can We Get One Glass Eye, In Our Club? Or, Into the Gynoceium
Far in the back of a cinderblock room without windows
and filled up with derelict pipes fit
with hand wheels and
grimy but colorful sleeves on the levers,
like abandoned remains of the obsolete Microsoft screensaver,
pressed against the boiler room wall
her old supple body,
like a decorated veteran of lust and
carnal desire, swore allegiance to the physical demands of pleasure
as I took mine,
hiked above her garters
and clinging bunched with heat and damp
around the loose, leathery, orange-tanned skin of her hips
and lower abdomen.
Lunch, too, was good:
suckered tentacles and bluish jaws of bivalves
in golden saffron broth.
Under the linen draped table she stroked my leg
with the toe of her stockinged foot
and explained she
and her husband, who was sitting
beside her—my supervisor—wanted me to
share my feelings, feel like I could tell them anything.
I studied the dead grey
eye of a severed adductor muscle
unblinking in the curve of a nacreous shell.
Late from lunch and my supervisor’s wife,
walking in the ecru
paneled hall outside my office
I heard the voice singing
for the first time
and stopped to look outside
where men in coveralls worked on golf carts
on steeply pitched asphalt
that looked like it had unwound off a spool,
removing the small tires and patching and inflating them, so patched
and inflated and stacked three or four high
the tires were bald.
Wind buffeted metal awning
holding down sunlight up to my ribcage.
Seated across my desk from her,
in the back of the room of exercise machines,
I can’t believe
this black girl was ever singing.
I can hear only the oppressive silence of weight stacked
and attendant on resolute heaving
into labored, halting motion
along polished steel shafts,
brass roller chains slowly snick-snicking
around the teeth of sprockets furred with grease and dust—
a kind of constellation cramped and clustered down the wrong end of a telescope,
dregs slid to curved pilsner glass bottom,
the atrophied and shriveling
calyx of her features
drawing me in, her lips so full—
Reaction Shot With Sunglasses
across chest, suppressed rage
wriggles and squirms out from under the bridge of his sunglasses,
while behind him
on matched swinging glass doors
a white swipe on black safety glass swerves as steel frames
like a pair of lips dry and chapped
lick, then purse.
The twangy swipe resumes its place.
His story, how he believes he’s getting stood up
here between the buildings,
and my companion and I nod
as we stand side by side,
rubbing drily against my right shoulder,
and drily against my companion’s left shoulder.
My companion and I left our office
after the others left,
and before those who still remain.
The memorial service, although not in progress yet,
has had its pick of our office.
The hedge is red, and up to our shoulders,
protects all three of us from wind.
The dirt the hedge is planted in has eroded,
as if an archeologist had used brushes
to detail a half-buried artifact.
Soft, supple wide brushes.
Or stiff, dagger-point brushes.
Wind chills my ankles in thin socks.
Did my companion and I stop on a landing
as we came down the stairs,
at the west end
of the long, east-to-west building?
I try to remember, but it’s too late, my companion and I
are already talking to this person.
This person who knows me, and who might know my companion.
Black teardrop-shaped wrap-around lenses
giving his face the illusion of depth,
or the space that surrounds the illusion of motion,
like he’s moving forward
at great speed,
bridge of his sunglasses pinches
fissures blond eyebrows.
I tell him it’s okay,
just because he attends the memorial service by himself
doesn’t mean he’ll leave by himself.
Slivers and splinters of plastic
suspended like smoke in the air
with the first
blow of the thin heavy pipe from the natural gas,
that we stripped from our office,
at the same time
I go across and down, striking his collarbone.
Dark shiny blood splashes
as sheet finds a small grade
on paved walk.
By the time the men sent to find us have found us
squatting, crouched down
on our haunches in the spandrel, waiting—
the top floor of our building has exploded, having filled with gas.
The different sirens—so many
grow louder: ear-piercing ribbons unwound off of spools
to be pinned on the night.
The puddle under both of us bright, bright yellow.
Mark Parsons’ poems have been published in Chariton Review, Contemporary Verse 2, Iodine Poetry Journal, subTerrain, Emerge, Mad Hat Lit, Antigonish Review, and elsewhere.