Two Poems

John Fenlon Hogan

The horizon was a diary of the casual, the birds

were articulations where none were needed,

and raced the mechanic’s wife by morning


light to kill the general practitioner neither now loved,

lashed together by wounds, the earth beneath their feet

trying to fall out from under them so as to spare


their sorrow, which was an animal. A person is
most lovely the moment after death before
decomposition sets in; a person is most interesting


the moment before death when dying

is no longer an option. There were questions.

The proletariat, for example, wanted to know


if your hand has the power to raise

minimum wage; the crossing guard wondered

about her job security; the beautician suggested


moisturizers; and dictators everywhere dreamed

up ways of bending it to their purposes. Things

got out of hand, and so the Fourth Dimension


was dismantled by The Board of Education,

half-dead to what happened, but even when alive

they merely stared at the ground. It was


no small wonder that scotch tape was unable

to hold the earth’s core together, yet it kept

residential districts intact, each of them free-floating


like islands and suburban as the devil worshipers

and illegal immigrants who erected them, marveling

afterwards at the decent-sized life-cubbies they created


via the perfect amount of slacking-off, which they

then fortified with paperwork and red tape.

They rejected the notion that existence would ever be


like a captive feline lapping at saucered milk.

They ensured that everyone had a taste for the bleak,

eschewing unnecessary meetings, ice cream,


and the smiles of toddlers. In that moment I forgot

I was lukewarm, and entered newfangled lukewarmity.

When the world was destroyed, no tools were used


save a colorless object slightly smaller than a quark,

and men watched from Laz-Y-Boys, dogs at their feet,

embezzling six packs of Bud Heavy. Remove the night


from my vision: let me eat its undergarments

until it is naked and invisible. Even wind and buffets

scare me. Speaking scares me. Especially buffets.


What I want is rarity, to be sent the diamond-eyes

of some long-dead Big Fuss or a charm of finches,

or the original mint of those traffic signs used


to demonstrate how wagons flowed in the Old West.

People wandered, but not aimlessly because aimless

was not permitted. From the suggestion box, nothing


was more typical than the personification of rare

meat, dramatized with exclamation points. Happiness,

turns out, was actually a mythical beast that moved


with uneasy rhythms when spooked or startled

or observing its Sunday obligation. They cured it

with salt and skepticism. Like a man who phones


ahead and makes an 8:00 PM reservation, I detached

myself from the infrastructure of that world, solder

weeping from me like tears of a boy who learns his father


died in a coal shaft. And yet even though I’m content,

I’d change places with a single-celled organism

if given the chance, because I prefer water


in all of its hijinks. Because of its texture. I feel it

at the tips of my heart, like palming a calm

Aegean without thinking of my retirement plan.


Then sometimes I find myself guzzling kerosene

to cure a snakebite when, in fact, I am not snake


-bitten or -worthy, but yearning for the act of sweating

it out in bed, delirium and a preponderance


of Kleenexes my sole possessions. Yesterday,

the mercury dipped below its usual levels.


Which is to say this beauty seems most frivolous

now that beauty no longer matters, has been


exposed as a placeholder for an erstwhile

we can’t quite remember, a feeling of a lack


of feeling nostalgic. I’m aware of two pains to be suffered

or spared in the afterlife: that of fire and that of losing


heaven, the second of which I can casually dismiss

as a field trip to the zoo. But oh those zebras.


Zebras. A boy who was obese focused

everything on not sweating. I can almost


feel the pains to which he went in order to glide

and layer the antiperspirant on the hard-to-reach


places. Our tendency to injure ourselves en route

to perfection is the cause of all grief. I can’t


imagine how the coroner explained to his mother

that he drowned himself in an odorless sweat.


Odorless because the reek comes from bacteria

on the skin. In case of emergency, keep the golden


brooches out of reach and away from the eyes—

an idea I endorse reluctantly, but reluctantly endorse
John Fenlon Hogan lives in Virginia and works in commercial real estate. His poems are forthcoming in Boston Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Minnesota Review, Salt Hill, and other journals.