by Claudia K. Grinnell
A looming rise of taxes next year: the vertical I for all
Small game skinners—rabbits, dogs, hamsters, squirrels
For those who couldn't get enough meat during the regular
Hours and substituted rats or roadkill as necessary. The horizontal
I lingered near death on life support—so called because
We pay for it, we endorse it in political
Speeches but we really can't afford it—thus the taxes nobody
Wants either but between death and taxes we choose taxes.
Charcoal is helpful too, injecting a helpful fairy tale element
Into the whole story. The brain has an amazing regeneration
Strength-left, right, middle, reptilian: all work together to get
The whole wreck lifted back to consciousness, even submerged
Ten feet under, even tomographed, ultrasounded. Even then
There are streams and peaks and valleys and worrisome spikes.
The old game skinner knows the game: it's skittish, not at all easy
At times to get through the door. So he tries a new approach
To old facts: a simple blanket wrapped round the body, drag
The body down a flight of stairs, out the front door, open trunk,
Heavy body into trunk littered with insurance documents in case
Something goes wrong—something always goes wrong—the wrong
Is programmed in this business and calculated into the base price,
Which is only and always right. The price. We haggle over it.
Downpayments, taxes again, electric, since no one wants to sit in
The dark and no one likes cold showers. That's a myth. It does not
Help. Saltpeter does not either. But there's gotta be something to
Keep the rabble in check, something to make sure that ti amo and
Diamonds remain strong, regardless of the reaming, streaming, screaming
Masses held at the appropriate hours, Christmas and Easter when
All churches are always full. No atheists in foxholes. But whither
The little foxes? Tunneling their way to church or mosque, equal
Opportunity believers in saviors up there. Every mission is different.
We're after max efficiency, that's what the gods
approve. These gods don't communicate with us
directly only with our pleasure center—don't
experience long wait times there—busy as they are,
they appreciate the well-oiled machine, the machine that
says thank you ma'am. The machines can't get drunk, neither
can the gods if it's a match made in heaven. Lots of white—
fluffy, gauzy wide angle sheets of the white. I do
something with mirrors, not much ceiling to work with
after the carpenter quit. Well, he didn't really quit as much
as they more or less turned him back into light. The grass was
apparently greener in spite of the heat. They drape your legs
round your tummy and carve suspicious slogans in your flesh.
It looks vaguely Aramaic and you worry over security
for security's sake. It's not like that and the uniforms mismatch
the boots. The gods promise us a taste of heaven.
Claudia K. Grinnell was born and raised in Germany. She now makes her home in Louisiana, where she teaches at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Cream City Review, Exquisite Corpse, Hayden's Ferry Review, Fine Madness, The New Formalist, New Orleans Review, Mudlark, Logos, Minnesota Review, and various others. Her first full-length book of poetry, Conditions Horizontal, was published by Missing Consonant Press in the fall of 2001. Ms. Grinnell was the recipient of the 2000 Southern Women Writers Emerging Poets Award. In 2003, she was a finalist in the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize Competition. In 2005, she received the Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship in Poetry. In 2007, she published a second book of poetry, titled Off Course.