PETER JAY SHIPPY
For elevenses the children drink chocolate milk from
wax cartons. Some use
build sand mounds. There’s running and chasing and so
you have to believe they don’t mind the earth. Because of
the dark clouds,
the tree house is off-limits and therefore, very tempting.
Crows gather at the edge of the playground waiting for the
They don’t mind waiting for their food.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight
Red sky in morning, sailors take warning
The domino effect will be massive: plankton, at the
bottom of the marine food
chain provide for
animals, which are then prayed upon by larger species.
Eventually man will
hear ticking from the stars, the sound of little legs
a bare floor looking for food and place to sleep.
My neighbor is one of those men who is building something
in his garage—a
roadster, a time
machine, a brewery.
On TV a football player removes his helmet and his
bald head steams. The
do a ceremonial fly over. The crowd cheers wildly. I count:
one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven and my house shakes. My windows
windows are sealed in plastic wrap. Seven.
Chinese astronomers have launched a robot spacecraft
to study the mysterious
bursts of gamma rays.
You know the story, the Princess drinks
white wine from a plum goblet and falls
head over heels
for the glassblower. Head over heels.
In the hey-day, in the mid-90’s,
I sometimes drank coffee at a Euro-style café in
nine, after the businesspeople and students had left and
an impromptu stock
club ensued. Mostly men—old, retired, many with
Ukraine, Brazil, Greece. They spread their Journals
swapped tips and told jokes and stories. If you listened for just a
week, you heard about
old jobs and families. Money was made, hand
over fist. I listened
and wrote down names and numbers. Not that I had
the ante. Like shooting
fish in a barrel, one would say. I wonder about
those men today.
I hope they didn’t trade their memories away. Do they
live in a daughter’s
guest room? In a son’s grease-floored garage? Are
their skulls smoking?
Hand over fist. Are they scratching weird numbers
over blue paper?
Sailing over a cardboard sea . .
A whale is not a fish, Jonah—it’s
a mammal. Now drink your milk.
At the start of the story, empty pockets
are a virtue. At the end of the story? A
lesson, a time machine,
a sardine tin, beer cans, margarine tubs, a punch
Every time I read the word—angel—I
start to count. Soul once caused the same
feedback, not now.
A favorite story: when I was twelve
our town librarian wouldn’t let me take out
on Ice without a note from my mother. That was the early 70s when
it was quite
fashionable to say: the Great Wall of China is the only
visible from outer
Towne. Soule. Donne.
John Donne sometimes felt that an angel
guided his fingers and sometimes not.
How many children, if given the opportunity
would turn themselves into birds?
On the train:
you have the time?
takes out her Ashbery PDA
October, the sunset trappers made a mint.
One night, when the sidewalks are lunar,
I walk. The Japanese maples that line
are like marble nerve nets. They were a gift to the city from
so during the war there was a campaign to have them
But what about German shepherds? people asked. But what
ice? Would we bother to ask, today? The blossom-filled air
makes my eyes
itch. I think it’s fine that we can’t see at the subatomic
else I wouldn’t leave my bed. And I’m happy I don’t have
It’s best we leave the hard looks to bats, children and barn
owls. I see
a cane leaning against the park’s iron fence. There’s a story
not a happy one. It’s good that I’m walking alone, or I
It’s good that no one knows that I’m not home. This way, if
my name I’ll know how to answer. I’ll bark like one of those
bats with puppy
faces. I live too close to downtown to see more than a
a few planets. But I don’t hear the worms, those fingers, those
souls; I don’t
hear their complaints. Thin light films the park.
Scientists in India are helping me to
find my lost cat. They’re building nanos
that will collapse
quantum mechanics. I’ll be able pause in any time.
Thin light limns the park. Spooky steam
leaks out of grates like movie adverbs.
One thing after
another, that’s life, says Echo. Walking this way, mind
like an outline
escaping it’s single page, is a form of prayer. An owl tips off
My foot finds a plastic bottle. I pick it up to toss it in a
trash can or
leave it on a bench, easier for the collector, but think about
in it, too. A note—a poem—a fortune—advice—a
sardine tin—a phone number—a clipper ship. A whale is not a
I toss it into the pond. Bad citizen. The water’s sarabande
can make you
shudder, can make you weep. It’s not our fault, we’re built
it’s all that I can do not to wade in and reactivate my gills
and swim down,
flicker my tail and fins and slide into the mud and bury
myself in the
burnt ochre mud, until spring.
You know the story. The young princess
rides her carriage to the glassblower’s
hut and finds
that the man is old and, well, unfortunate in the looks
a rhino with alligator skin. How lovely is god, she
this hideous ogre is endowed with the lips and lungs and soul
of an angel.
He can breathe life into sand. They kiss. They marry. They
taikonauts in Space Station Li Po blow up asteroids in their
Rothko’s Harvard murals are now
in Dark Storage—an undisclosed
in negligee-like super-fibers that curator’s call body
Rothko painted the murals using Lithol
red, a commercial paint, a fugitive
washed out after only a few years of direct sun—no one
We breathe so we don’t have to
He loved those poems wherein red ink
is blood and wine is blood and sunset is a
a sad heart, a tongue in your ear.
The five panels of the commissioned
mural were hung in a distinguished dining
room in 1964.
By 1970 they were in sad shape—fading and scarred and
fiberglass curtains, specially installed, were left open; the private
room was given
over to student parties; the panels were cleaned with
the staff, which were given no instructions. Alan C carved
ALAN C into
one of the panels.
After Oedipus left the place where three
roads meet, a tornado of red dust
spot in wound.
In 1979 the murals were disappeared.
Lithol sky at night, painter’s
Lithol in morning, curators take warning
A note—a poem—a fortune— a
phone number—a clipper ship. A whale is not a
The bottle bobs like an abandoned shell.
Scientists in Australia are teaching a
sect of crustaceans
to use trash— soda bottles, sardine tins, beer cans,
plastic cups, match boxes, hollowed-out bibles, soup
cans, a can
of Nerval bisque, Tupperware, a ballet slipper, a wine goblet,
a shoe, an
old shoe, a cobbler’s form—as shells as there are no more
shells to convince
the crabs to live.
Scientists in India are converting rats
from warm-blooded creatures to cold
to induce metabolic quiescence. You see, hibernation
may be the
salvation of mankind and therefore, plankton. You see?
I wonder if I should have dropped bread
crumbs or tied red ribbons to the
said don’t forget your ball of string!
How many days it took for me to see
that everyone was wearing their wetsuits.
Yes, the floods were taking their toll, but each
night brought more moonlight. I sat on my porch
and dried out. Soon, I thought, I’ll be an onion
under the earth with my mask and tank.
When you spend your days playing leapfrog,
you no longer hear the translation
I claim there a point in every elegy
where the piece turns from eulogy to Euclid.
The volta? Where the voice speaks about the voice. Addition
Adduce, spin. The spun? You know; where the
jumps are swamped by fear, by the appreciation of the
own heartbeat. Put a finger on the vein. Lick the sapwood. Blue
homestretch? The focus? The aiming?
Signal the missileers! —Father,
it’s time to fire the mother lode.
From eulogy to euphony.
Hear? Hear the little feet trying the
steps? The children believe that a rabbit in
lives inside the tree house. And really, who can blame
them? A hare
in Lagerfeld’s is just common sense.
Let’s say the elegy’s gone
red. The lights are blinking. The sirens are
The teacher has led her lambs into the corridor to put their
in the ovens; they’ll be safe there, under bookbags and sardine
tins. Not me.
I was left in the classroom, forgotten. See, I talked too
much. I grew
up on an apple farm, mostly alone. So when the yellow bus
at the red brick school I began to gabber and I didn’t stop
until I was
returned to our orchards. So Mrs. Curtis put me behind the
with a book, so I wouldn’t distract the other kids.
The birds have flown.
The sheep are in the manger, the fold,
the dugout; they’re in the cradle.
The black keys, the white keys, the
red keys, the president is playing the music
that will burn
our throats but I can’t put down the book—the lost boat has
red, the white, the black.
It was a red brick schoolhouse where
my father and his father had also
This is true. Then it was the town library.
Now the bricks are for sale on eBay,
not the building,
just the bricks. Whew.
The princess marries the old glassblower.
They ascend to the throne. They
have a son,
an heir—a prince named Alan C. Just in case, the old
has his apprentice arrested and disfigured and imprisoned.
just politic. That’s just common sense. That’s just what they tell
you to do in
those books that tell monsters what to do.
Jeez. Don’t you read?
At the museum:
you know what this painting means?
puts in her earbuds
And of course, it’s the glassblower’s
apprentice, all along. He’s responsible for
enchanting goblet. And he’s handsome to boot! —so his lips
Hot wax. And his fingers are in a box that the old glassblower
buries in the
old graveyard. Sharp axe. And his brown eyes are sewn
shut with a
needle and fishing line. But he lives; in a cell, in a cold tower,
his escape. Drawing up plans— kidnap their son?
the glassblower? Or fashion the greatest goblet…ever! Wax
can escape the fishing hook. Something scuttles across
the stone floor.
The rat in his lap is sound asleep. I know ways to turn a
boy into a
crow, he sings. Or worse. Yes, I can breathe white sand into
I touch my sagging body and think,
how much air I will find in the water. In the
I think that or did someone say that? I hear wings above my
head and giggling.
I hear a voice (Boris? Bela?) gurgle
from beneath the water’s skin, “Life! Sweet
then my bottle bobs-up
and then my bottle bobs-up and comes
ashore, little feet scurry it past me and
into the ash
I smell ginger.
I see red stars smear the red water.