I know there’s an ashtray around here somewhere but
I also know that cigarettes are tired
of always hanging out with each other
so I let them die in the grass, spread out to look at the clouds that hide the stars –
Dare me to try and get one to the moon?
Ever imagined smoking in outer space?
Using the moon for your ashtray? Me neither.
After my mother’s second divorce and roughly sixtieth heartbreak
she said that the world was all brand new
but only if she stood on the back doorstep and squinted real hard
and the smoke from her Marlboro floated into her eyelashes just so.
My father beat himself so badly with the bones
of the elephant he found in the backyard
he couldn’t see out of his left eye for almost a month.
Those days his Bud can became
his ice pack instead of his oxygen mask
or the cast on his hand or the blunt force in the back of my head or in my gut
I yield! I yield!
My brother screamed at the 7-11 lady after she said
that yeah sure she was fine but she wished her son didn’t always seem so numb;
all he does is check his watch and complain about being colorblind.
My favorite place to chain smoke until I have to go inside to vomit
is a hallway except its outdoors and
honest to god I don’t know another
way to describe it than that.
My phone is dead so I guess I’ll have to sing what I want to hear
even though these bricks are giving mixed reviews.
My mother called it hospital, my
father called it looney bin. I called it
place to get some damn sleep and talk to Molly,
the dementia praecox, 17, glowing purple
and dancing with her hands straight up in the air –
she forgot my name each day by lunch, but always remembered
that she absolutely positively fucking loathed sweet potatoes.
A man I loved once talked about getting I hate it
tattooed inside his mouth
and I said Honey-boy go for it
but he only laughed and kissed me
right near my armpit where he was lying
starting to sing something not nearly sad enough.
My father returned from the bar called Porcupine,
sank into the carpet like it was satin in some coffin; woke
to find his elephant bones confiscated, my
mother sipping her coffee in that sickly purple bathrobe,
at peace for the first morning since the pseudo-mastodon decayed out back.
I piss out 72 ounces of Pabst and I
flush the cigarettes with it
but keep the lighter
for the candle an ex-girlfriend gave me after we made out in her grandfather’s garage,
just us and that band saw who refused to close his eyes no matter how hard we begged.
Letter to the Traumatically Beautiful
Would I love you this way if you could last,
if you weren’t born only to be pronounced
dead within a matter of moments?
Here and away, a flare of light seen from the backseat where
the kids hold hands in secret while
one of the parents drive and smile trying
to remember any moment so peaceful.
What gives you the right to decide when to appear?
When they’re reading something they love aloud, dancing
until their socked feet are as drunk
as their mouths,
eventually collapsing in the great rapturous unknown
that is new soft carpet, christened with
spilled wine and that Herbert poem
about arriving in heaven. Though why not
pretend it is wet concrete so that one
can try to write what the other’s hair
tastes like in it?
Later will come the analysis and you’ll be nowhere to be found.
And then there’s those bruised memories we
almost beg you to create, clinging
to them for the tainted euphoria inherent in the pain.
A fishhook through the ear.
A father cutting out his son’s splinters by lamplight,
kissing the tiny toes after each twist of the buck knife.
Staying up all night in the empty bathtub
simply because she knows it’ll hurt her neck the next morning
and that means something to her.
11 years old and drunk in the cemetery,
carried to the car after vomiting – odd
funeral, but the moon was so big, so bright
the adults all swore Sheena had something to do with it.
The boot in brother’s belly,
sister’s black eye from that gold wedding band,
the rowboat in the kitchen that mother
put there, protesting the
injustice. These moments do you make holy.
You’re not always kind, though, after you’ve had your
moment. The girl who was paralyzed after
being thrown from the bed of her
wouldn’t stop talking about how beautiful
the air was – every shade of green – before
her neck hit a branch
and her legs stopped. I’ve been known
to break apart and dissolve at the right pair of eyes,
deep blue or warm brown or ice,
just for glancing up and catching
mine as if they’d been waiting.
You’ve somehow created a perverse beauty in blood.
Mottled purple crimson in the eyes after asphyxiation, a
safety-pin drawing it from ribs in ribbons, a couple drops off
the cheek in the mirror.
Are you ever lonely?
You’ve never burnt your finger lighting a candle, only
been the moment of looking at the pools
of wax and seeing miles of muted yellow
You’ve never been the hands of the child gutting a fish, only
been the galaxy of gilly goop and scales,
swirling on the mud under the picnic table,
the whole universe waiting to be stepped on
by some aunt or uncle.
You’ve never smudged your glasses, only
been the smile after he goes to clean
them, wondering which part of her face
altered his prescription just so.
I have this habit of skipping halfway through a poem I’m reading.
I miss you before you’re gone, am in pain as you return.
About the Author: Zac Cahill writes mostly from Alma College in Michigan, where he is currently a student. His work has appeared in Pine River Anthology and West Texas Literary Review.