They look so real, I think, these bodies
drained of goop and dried for students
to pull apart like leather clocks.
Skin peeled away and pinned
open, the insides are sculpture.
It's the stubble that troubles me.
Scrubbed up and blue-gloved,
I can't resist the urge to hold my palms
before me like surgeons I've seen on TV.
As the heavy door swings shut
from the air pressure used
to ventilate the room, I spot
on the table a head
sawed so clean the
rests in its socket
like a tiny, plastic
Easter egg emptied.
Each is, or was, elderlythe body's
return to dust already underway.
This woman's bones so frail,
both femurs will break
when we lift her from the table.
The saw's path offers a side-view:
coccyx tucked in, tucked
like a tailcurled like a finger relaxing...
my grandmother's after she pushed
toward me a playing card,
all the red diamonds
aligned with her knobby hand.
Sorry I lied. I apologize
for misleading you down
slope of my deception. Sorry
I pretended to love you,
or pretended to try to love you.
And I'm sorry about making up
the constellations. I am surprised
you bought itmaybe pairs of stick figures
doing it in impossible positions, but a bull?
A queen on her throne? Come on.
I finally, officially apologize
for the Bohpal chemical explosion
it's a relief to let that go.
I am sorry I tricked you into thinking
your favorite author was Sylvia Plath,
sorry for allowing you to believe
you actually understood her.
Sorry I blended up your goldfish.
Do pardon me for making you happier
than you'll ever be again, lighting up
like a colonnade of Tikki torches
the last eight months of your life.
Please tell your next lover "discúlpame"
for ruining his chances at being your best
fuck ever. I am sorry I wept wide-eyed
as I watched you duck your head
under the doorframe of the smallest room within me.
I am sorry we are both in the same country.
I am sorry I addicted you to cigarettes, and I
mildly regret that thirty some years from now
you will wake in clean sheets, confused,
with a plastic tube in your nose
leading to a mechanic lung,
its occasional whisper of sterile air
the only sound in that soon-to-be-abandoned room.
COAT OF PAINT
It's cold, and my plastic jacket's
zipper feels like stitches.
I never thought I'd survive
anywhere you spend most
months wrapped like food.
I miss the pretty near
pure sunshine of the desert,
but not the heat headaches.
Before I left, an Albuquerque
girl I wanted bought a big ol'
car from some grandma.
Of course it couldn't play
anything we liked:
We were learning how
to love what was old.
We painted its long doors
yellow, looped a purple
flower over its green hood.
I predicted the house
paint she picked wouldn't
stick. We didn't
make it. She drove
that boat past me
five years later, yellow
and purple as
a new bruise. Oops.
I have gotten used
to cold, but not rain.
That car is gone.
When I see it again,
I will be dead.
I hope its door open.
YOUR FAVORITE ___ EVER
I've made a carburetor of
my apoplexy, and I've
no idea what that means!
It just occurred to me/us.
It probably means I
have a pathological
need to sound
interesting. I want this to be
your favorite thing.
Watch me toss this
verb into the air!
It will never come back down.
What a terrible beginning...
Let's reset by saying mumbleberry
I am imagining
your lips moving.
Let's instead see a horse,
a plain brown one, galloping
along its fence next
to the highway empty
except for us.
Roll the window down.
What, as we fly by,
should we shout out
into the wind roaring in?
W. Vandoren Wheeler was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He cracked his head open on the playground in the 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades; he began writing seriously in the 8th grade. He has published poems in H_ngM_n, Forklift, Swink, and other journals. He currently lives and teaches in Portland, Oregon, and is tweaking his manuscript The Accidentalist.