Poems: C. L. Bledsoe & Michael Gushue

Learning to count with Salvador Dali

1 disdainful ostrich that does long division by preening its feathers.
2 Amish prospectors who only want to talk about how the crops are doing.
3 petite swine who are very good at pointing at knees.
4  polka dots that are not affected by the laws of physics.
5 yellow squash that I do not want to eat.
6 giant inflatable barnacle genitalia for a Thanksgiving day parade.
7 nostril hairs that predict the future.
8 vials of armadillo saliva being sold as Lourdes water to Norwegians.
9 potatoes.
10 apples I’ve forgotten in the back of my desk drawer who’ve achieved sentience and now plot to take over the world.


How Sharper Than A Child’s Tooth Et Cetera.

I once taught a chicken to peck out
“Nights in White Satin” on the xylophone.
Turned out she was allergic to zinc.
Her beak swelled up like a zeppelin,
and all her head feathers fell out.
I sold her to a private zoo as a rare
Alabama toucan for 500 bucks.
You come to me now and say that toucan
was your mother; you call me
names. You throw eggs at my house
and refuse to wipe your feet. Sorry,
cowboy, she wasn’t pulling her weight
is what I’m saying. If you ain’t putting
lettuce in the kitty, then you just have
to take your rhubarb and pretend
it’s sauerkraut pie somewhere else.
She loved me like no bald chicken
masquerading as a toucan has loved
a naked badger on stilts pretending
to be a man. Someday you’re going
to realize that love—true, beak-deep,
everlasting love—doesn’t pay the milkman.
Sometimes, doe-eyed clucking, scratching
the dirt for the sweetest worms to share—
it ain’t never going to be enough.


Possum Heart

The heart is a muscle, but so is the tongue.
This means you’ll never confess your love
without sweating a little bit. The invisible things,
the things that truly matter, are always so
sticky, yet never stick. For example, every autumn,
leaves sacrifice themselves and fall to their death.
None of them knew how to microwave a banana peel.
That is what happens when you don’t have a union.
You can’t retrain a leaf to operate
a drill press or be a marriage counselor.
I guess there were so many things I wanted to say
about the way I saw you looking at the trash
I left on the floor, your phone shining like a watchtower.
I woke up with possum-mouth, so how I feel
about you I keep in this little pouch because
I don’t think any of us would survive the fall.


The Real Catastrophic Extinction Events of New Jersey

“Think the Toba catastrophe but with more stylish
snow pants,” were your exact words when you decided
we were over. I wrote a song about it, but it had the same
lyrics as “Psycho Killer,” so, technically, staying together
would have been a copyright infringement. That’s what
I said to the closed door you slammed on your way out.
Ever notice how other people want to breathe in the fresh
air you thought belonged to you? It’s a whole world of too-
soon-after-eating swimmers out there, but the cramps
are in their hearts. Desperation is the new black; looks
good on everyone else. These are things we tell people
on buses because no one else will listen. The truth is, you
were the exploding supervolcano that cooled the world
for a thousand years, but I was the crater blasted
into the earth’s memory. Eventually I’ll be covered
with lush tropical vegetation, a sapphire blue sea filled
with frolicking dolphins, various species of flightless birds
found nowhere else and soon to be murdered by rats,
but–underneath it all–is a void that never forgets.


Please Be Very Quiet Please

Everyone hears sounds differently.
To me, a snowflake hits the ground as
shattered glass. You hear a sigh.
Maybe the birds are speaking ancient
Greek, but they don’t even have walls
to hang their degrees. Even the loudest
heartbreak is like muffled thunder. All
you hear is a cd skipping, skittering—
fingers shivering through hair, trying
to work their way down, trying to tune
those invisible strings. The last time you
caught my eye from across the room
deafened me. Of course the party was the howl
and rattle of a roller coaster without brakes.
But how was I to know the hors d’oeuvres
were blaring at you like trumpets.
There’s something that lives inside
our ears, small as a poppyseed. It might
be a starving wolf as it naps in your heart.
It could be an echo from a well that wishes
it were full. I lay close to you each night,
listening to you breathe. I hear otoliths
on spin cycle. I hear ancient caves
where lions go to do yoga. There’s
your heartbeat, steady and sure,
a trolley that rolls through your veins.
I promise I’ll listen for no more than five
minutes. Maybe ten. Just until
I hear something close to my name.



CL Bledsoe is the author of seventeen books, most recently the poetry collection Trashcans in Love and the novel The Funny Thing About… . He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter and blogs, with Michael Gushue, at https://medium.com/@howtoeven

Michael Gushue is co-founder of the nanopress Poetry Mutual Press, and he co-curates the reading series Poetry at the Watergate. His work can be found in journals such as Indiana Review, Third Coast, Redivider, Gargoyle, The Germ, and American Letters & Commentary and his books are Pachinko Mouth, Conrad, Gathering Down Women, and—in collaboration with CL Bledsoe—I Never Promised You A Sea Monkey. He lives in the Brookland neighborhood (“a shabby and decidedly unhip neighborhood” -New York Times) of Washington, D.C.



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