sporklet 9

Philip Schaefer

Get Mad

This is how it always goes: you spend over half
your life only half as good as the person
you’re with. Then they die first and you’re more
afraid of being alone than them being gone
because you’re still the same person and half
as strong. My new chakra is halving the sun
with my finger then licking off the yellow melt
like meringue. There are mountains of bees
inside these mountains and it only takes a password
to open sesame. To give the world a humming
it can no longer silence. In our country we take
action by walking to the next bar and talking
about how bad we have it, how bad they’ve made
us look. I want to be Marlon Brando. I want
a soft pack rolled tight in my bleached white tee.
In the story they tell their kids fifty years from now
about the girl who swam the Atlantic with a .45
strapped to her thigh, she’ll have hair the color
of a reborn phoenix. A name like Cassandra
or Ramona. She shot the President of the United
States of Laziness. She made a watercolor poster
of his urine-soaked face. Beautiful, all this amazing
grace we keep on singing. Beautiful, this generation
we keep divorcing ourselves from. I am trying
to invent a laser technology with my teeth. When
I bite the flaccid dick off our foreign affairs, no one
will feel a thing. Tell me I’m kidding. Lick your lips.


Dear Jeff,

Lately I think of head wounds as portals, small
hole apertures into dark unknowns.
If you lay a skipping stone over one eye
you can feel the other flood with river.
In the basement of a morgue the coroner
pulls back a sheet and it’s not uncommon
to be expressionless. To see your cold face
for the first time without a mirror. Dear
Jeff, I am turning into the shed the ghost
leaves behind. The centuries of salt it takes
for a body to dry out, become the sound
the seahorse makes on the shore right before
it sleeps in the coffin of a child’s warm hands.
And if the stars don’t suck back in, if time
is more than a landlord rolling a spliff
on the stoop while your radiator sings its swan
song, maybe we have one last blind shot
before the clay pigeons all crack in half.
Maybe what we called willful forgetfulness
is the onus of amnesia. The way memories
divide into plankton, all limbs and suck.
When I erase your name I am left with letters
I never thought to send. Never even wrote.
This is me covering my arms with ink, tuxedo
skin. When I tell you I’m serious as a semiautomatic
I mean my chest is a constellation. Waiting, pulsing.


Week Long Gender

Been hitting it hard again. The bronze bottle
of hairspray, tube sock lip gloss. Constantly mistaking
the cucumber shampoo for a microphone even Elvis
would spit lightning for. I used to try to haunt
myself. To mirror mirror my other eleven identities,
always curious which one would come out
for pantyhose and tea. Now we’re all here all the time, portal
closed, dipping dick-shaped donuts into mediocre whiskey
because fuck the coffee. Let’s rip open the history of glow-
in-the-dark condoms. Let’s Jesus our way around town
until glitter becomes verse, emotion.
Last night my partner dressed up as a corpse
and one of myselves gave pleasure something to be jealous
of. One of us threw Hollywood a rawhide to gnaw on.
There are ways of hitting fast forward so frequently
you forget what country you were born in. Land
of dumb belief, home of purple rain spandex. Jerusalem
in our jawbones and skylights. I want to name
my lover after a limousine of dachshunds. I want
another seventeen pink drinks. If you stare into my ribcage
which is galvanized angel dust, you’ll find a locket
with a thumbnail photograph of black and white forgiveness.
Please, take a screenshot, take a deep breath, open me up entirely.


Costume Party

We lined up on the blacktop. One wore feathers,
one snakeskin boots. One a plastic axe, one a loaded


squirt gun. We held hands, aware for the first time
of skin. Of stick and sweat. Cherry sun at our throats


in that low, salty Missouri kind of choke. Then back
to back we marched twenty paces until the war


whistle blew. We scrambled. We snarled.
Blood in our invisible screams. I remember shooting


a girl with tweed hair, staring down the gold tulips
in her eyes, saying bang, you’re dead. But the tomahawk


never left her grip in slow motion. The peacock
in her hair never stopped fanning. Rather, she defied


the rules of history, her paper skin glistening
like whiskey, and walked up to me with a knife


in her voice. She said this is it how it really went
motherfucker (the first time I fell in love


with language) and ripped three buttons, top
to bottom, from her uniform. You gotta spit here first.

Pleasure Riot

One by one the boys unbuckle
their denim youth
and let what feels like God – coal
train screaming between blue
pines – suck & suck
& suck. A field of gold harvest,
pollen parachuting down.
They go off like smoke bombs,
allowing their freedom
to sing past the dam of another man’s
gums. This heliotrope a new
backdrop for pleasure. The clouds
foaming white explosion.


Then it is their turn.
Hands all clam and wheat. Throats
dry like your dad’s dead car
battery, some stiff red
handkerchief. Anything they can think
of other than their bodies opening
into saxophones.


Twenty years later
someone at the tavern calls me a sweetheart
faggot for wearing jeans
the color of daytime ocean. Because
I remind him of a generation
he thinks he doesn’t belong to. Eventually
all boys leave the fallow
field, wiping their palms pooled with crystal
sap on the devil’s earth.
All the salvation we never speak of again.

Philip Schaefer’s debut collection of poems Bad Summon (University of Utah Press, 2017) won the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and he’s the author of three chapbooks, two co-written with friend and poet Jeff Whitney. He won the 2016 Meridian Editor’s Prize in poetry, has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and in the Poetry Society of America. Individual work is out or due out in Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Thrush Poetry Journal, Guernica, The Cincinnati Review, Salt Hill, Bat City Review, The Adroit Journal, Baltimore Review, diode, and Passages North among others. He tends bar in Missoula, MT.