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Ref l ect ed Of f t he Occ as ional Bone Andrew Borgstrom

Publishing Genius Chapbook Series No. 25

Publishing Genius makes books. With Keyhole Press, Publishing Genius also operates isReads, The Outdoor Journal, at and Everyday Genius at Reflected Off the Occasional Bone is the 25th edition of Chapbook Genius. Visit for the archives. Publishing Genius 2200 Maryland Ave C1 Baltimore, MD 21218 PG Chapbook Genius 025 Copyright Š 2010 Andrew Borgstrom

A chorus of strings will worm through us.

The ingredients for intercourse included wet wood, young flesh, burnt hair, sea water. All we could taste was the smell. A pocket of gum wrappers and another of love notes. Limbs waved beneath flags. Stretched umbilical cords. Brain food. Hollow breasts with inverted nipples. Dried apricot eyes. Windows to an empty house. The secret ingredient reduced to chewing on air, sticky air we were not to speak of miles away from home: it’s nice to meet you and time to go home and this is the house of your lord and stop it, cover it, turn from it, leave it. Blind alleys on a flat earth. Chained to a truss and covered with bed sores. Bathroom stalls, root cellars, voting booths, bomb shelters. And when the light comes, it only brings shadow.


So much depends upon a red esophagus glazed with saliva beside the white tracheal.


With our lips frozen to make-shift aluminum pipes, we said less to the words than they said back. The words sat cross-legged upon our chests. They pointed at our chins and said, broken. They pointed at our cheeks, our heads, our noses, our eyes, all accompanied with broken. We looked in the mirror. We looked like we look. The words smiled with their eyes. We put things in disorder. It kept us awake at night. What we needed. What we wanted. We awaited our chest cavities to cave in from the weight of words. A forearm the size of a hole in the wall. A face the size of the hole in our chests.


We were less than the number of days locked within a veil. We reacted without knowing, enjoyed not knowing, and then knew, finally. Or is this all wrong? All words? Our hope bartered at the crossroads. Freedom the going price. Unable to open the box with the key. Left with a key and knowledge. Our organs eaten out everyday. Who will show us how to build a golden calf? To press the knife into the flesh and bleed on the yellow linoleum? You wanted to pull Picaso’s Geurnica out of your pocket, but only found gum wrappers and love notes, licked by fire and horses. A gaping hole in a third of the sky. Their loss and our gain. We stood three feet from anything that looked like sunstroke and two years from everything that resembled a relationship. A click, a ring, a metronome. The bills changed colors like the leaves. They’ve left the words behind. They’ve disguised themselves as more. They will only let the others know that we were fed and that we accomplished nothing.


The porch lamp illuminated our forgotten irreverent ensign. The corners of structure worked into joints and elbows, a new direction, connected to a wall where all we said came out backwards, creating back words. We spoke the new words but knew they were still the same words. Another life melted away creating false dreams of pigment-hope that froze every night reminding us that beneath white, lies black. Then the clouds of chariots on fire. The memory of words like the smell of cocoa butter. The deleted words in our eyes where they could not be erased, where we had no time to look at each other. Too many projects strapped to too many gurneys. Circled in blood-ink and pointed at with silver pens. A lid closed over a face made to look like it passed something besides out and on.


We thought the lithe words could maneuver through the gap without difficulty. The words looked at us with twisted face and tilted head. They no longer look at us, so I keep the chapped lips, and you keep the wiry hair. Virtue constantly goes out of us. We misplaced the switch to the light that cannot be darkened. We have eyelids for unwanted light. We only heard the bloodied footsteps, the wasted skin against the glass-black floor, symmetrical, marble, velvet. We are so much lighter without words. The paint on the plastic walls designed to distract us.


Like someone said, when the hair of your arm touches the hair of another arm, between them is creation. Well, whoever said the first part didn’t say the last.


The hem of our t-shirts matched the scars on our wrists. They told us the scars were supposed to match the zippers on our jackets. Our skin aged thirty years in the water drawn hours younger. The words trapped in bathtub bubbles. You flew too close to the sun, but it was sunset. I called you rebellious and brilliant. So early, we slept above ground. Vanished as the sun. A spark from a fishhook at the end of a twine lasso. A cemented fencepost removed with bare hands and clipped fingernails. The despondent said it was past safe beneath these rays. In the rear of the mind, we believed. Next to the unborn thoughts sleeping with one eye open, waiting for the moment famine and abstinence pumps through our blood like cold crushed ice and falls on our necks with kisses. Until then, we glue our wings to our sides. We don’t need your religion. Just paint. And a shovel to dig a hole in the earth. Until then, we will swallow the asphalt blood and never die.


We buried the words beneath the hair on our arms. A moth flapped before caged blue electricity. You stared in the mirror until you saw the words in your eyes. You put your lips on my neck, your fingers in my heart. It pumped in tune with your blinks and dimples. I became your face. The words would all be mine for a whispered fare. You would be vapor until I telephoned. You would be liquid when I telephoned. You would fry the phone when you answered it and become vapor again. Restored to dust and eyes put out. My world a large box perforated for my escape, a manufactured womb with nowhere to wash my hands, and mold upon the epidermis garden.


The thought behind the thought consuming the whatever so that only desire is left, desire and the thought behind the thought, which is more of desire as well, or the knowledge that a thought exists and that someone might desire it. Yet it comes out as a mosquito perching on the skin sucking the blood until the skin turns translucent and the donor needs to scratch at the dead cells to get to the real itch, to get beneath it, where the truth has given a part of its life away.


We thought about learning the intricacies of intricate things. We decided to just watch more television and sleep more. When I looked the other way, you talked to the empty spaces where the words used to be. You could use the company. Graphite stretch marks, blood-seep, bubble’s pores. Staring at painted walls at the blood no longer there. Bundles of sixty. The same amount of time it took to tie your shoes or brush my teeth. Forty wiped up already. Ten back into the pill bottle. Ten down the drain. Fifteen tying knots and kicking over chairs. Five in the knife block. How much depends on how much. We measured the distance from Formica to linoleum. It seemed longer, I said. Hardened cinnamon rolls, you said.


Discovering the room filled with hairy flesh and polyester scarves.


The twigs we stepped on refused to break. We used the axe, bloodied from eliminating the spaces between nouns. I hiccupped between the syllables of Sinbad and sounded like a caveman delivering the first theological sermon. High heels against dry pavement. You were so sure there was an eye in it, or that they had your eyes. One for each of them. Cradled in their arms like apples. Holding them out before snowy eves. But they were my toes. My balance always off. You labeled our bundles of sixty a consecutive number of todays. I said, today is Sunday. You said, today is today. Not today, I told the room of flesh and scarves. Sent to bed in boxer shorts and shirtless with the greasy tattoos still smiling. We used our regret as fuel for living while suffixes tried to grow out of dead roots.


For want of nothing better, we wanted nothing better. We better want nothing, for we wanted better nothing. Wanted: nothing (better).


We didn’t want goodbyes but electrical processes. Tell us the mysteries of science, and let us walk out the door with one leg half asleep and two-hundred words passed out in our laps. A folding metal chair and one-hundred words that still believed. A perfect moment of imperfection. Like the moment we traveled through the dark, or shocked upon the tenant farmer’s deer. And maybe someone will find something else worth some time, somewhere else, or maybe not, or else. Maybe someone new will find the something new worth some new time, some new how. We looked at the concrete and then the chameleons. We fell from makeshift balconies while our parents sold electronics and our words were pushed by shopping carts brimmed with bath towels and fill in the blanks.


The words dreamed of their sons killing their daughters, and they (the words) continuously dream-forgave their daughterkilling-sons. For God’s sake, she was your daughter, screamed their (the words’) dreams, and their (the words’) neighbors. But he is still my son, they (the words) continuously dreamresponded.


We drove away with wet driver’s licenses on ice fornicated roads. The trees of life groped the stop signs. You wore tassels to hide your inverted nipples. I would not turn the music down or remove the dead chrysanthemum from the rearview mirror. A little girl climbed up a slide. A young boy bowled her over as he slid down one-hundred times preoccupied. The grown boy remembers her blurs and knows she will vanish before he can tell her his name. We know the names but nothing more. Words like ennui that we looked up once but can never recall what the weather was like or if there were mountains. The ground beneath our feet will replace the air in our lungs, our flesh will burn, and the smoke will carry our osteoporosis away.


Two realtors, one appraiser, and two loan officers swung metal clubs at white circles in green pastures and didn’t see the significance of each of them having tucked in their closets the exact same shirt the appraiser was wearing. Pearls of swine flesh left in the road. A single woman sat behind a salvaged desk pressing her fingers against lone letters. She liked to imagine a skinned calf chewing away the pages sewn between its skin. She would pet the calfskin book as the cud of missing pages returned to be eaten again. Her arms moving like someone wrapped in seaweed on a deserted island. The alleys we didn’t enter for fear of never being found again, in this way, in the likeness of kelp that caused our limbs to swing like they were not our own. The pencil tip in the center of my right hand where you stabbed me as I slept on the kitchen floor. Your Parkinson’s hand flopping at the edge of the tray. Our snapping fingers trying to grasp the lip of the cup.


Tree number four had a polyester scarf tied in a bow around one of the lower branches. The same kind of knot in my shoes, though more balanced, as if the bow-tier were tying the hands of someone she wanted to keep, but not against his will. The other trees had lost the bows they might have never had. We rolled the slain words onto a stretcher and silently shined into the night.


We stared at our hands holding shovels like we held weapons instead of tools, like we dug holes through our flesh, reflected off the occasional bone, like the sweat pouring down our foreheads and splattered across our bodies was our blood. We fainted. When we wake, will we beat against the pine screaming, we’re not dead, or will we even know the difference?


Someone hated this wall. Someone unmended the wall while flames lapped at the sans hands and serif feet. Someone built a new wall to the left and steps to the right.


A chorus of worms will string through us.



a prose poem series from Andrew Borgstrom