First we must pick a son
from all these lined up
on the shelves like yogurt.
Some bald as stones,
some with dollops of hair,
each one leaking,
each a different color.
It is so hard to tell
which will wind up handsome, which
sickly, evil, indolent,
which will radiate unstoppable joy.
We rifle through them for hours.
This one here is irrational and crazy,
this one arrogant, cleaning its fat foot
with its mouth. This one
is made of red jelly and disgusts me.
Here is one with a pianist’s slender hands.
Soon, all the good sons
will be picked through.
Down one aisle are the slightly
off. A cross-eyed one,
one bowlegged, one with ringworms.
Aisle two is filled with
creepy stout babies pumped with milk,
in mint condition.
Down the third aisle are those
who have been mutilated. These
are quite something.
A unique style of child,
like a bonsai tree.
There was one down aisle four
with interesting green eyes,
but his penis was so small.
Finally we find him around closing time,
big and sparkling in aisle seven,
and lug him up to the register.
I look him in the eyes
after they bag him up.
You will be my son. You will
carry my ridiculous yearning bones
and swim them out.
You will be strong of body,
broad of shoulder,
and you will bear this little weight,
build a house with my remains
in the abysmal prairie,
give tours occasionally,
occasionally get the fireplace going,
halls decked with all my stuffed
and antlered winnings, and sit
and watch it burn.
I have become so obsessed with the body, my purple guts
are going sour in a Tupperware in the break room,
so I take them to the marina and watch the pelicans
carouse and slurp. What use have I for them
now that you have made me a moth, more wind than will?
Ian wants an ant waist
meaning a body in ballooning segments
like a bug or a botched K-pop tween.
It will make him more desirable as a dancer,
so he’s not eating much these days.
It makes sense for Ian,
but I want a body made of meat I can
slap against other meat bodies.
I want a body that can’t spill, can’t be punctured.
I want a body that if cut in twain will become two living bodies
and those two might be enough.
NEVER NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP
Un-cry these tears, cardboard NASCAR guy
in the corner of the taxidermy bar.
Whiskey mashes my face
like a fist. Pour me a soda
could you? I can feel my blood sugar
dipping. Here is a camouflaged geezer
named Cooter. Talk with him about rifles.
He will ask you why all poems
are about horrible sadness.
There is a deer head above the sink
in the bathroom. Into his eyes
I try the mantra,
pull the diagram out of my pocket,
trace the lines.
Remember when it got so bad
you had to press your face
against the cold marble floor
in front of all the financial district commuters?
On the other side of the door
someone is karaoke-ing “I Love this Bar”.
Someone else pumps a fist in slow-mo
with closed eyes.
Try living in the world
like it’s fundamentally nurturing.
it is devoted to you.
Imagine when Cooter gets up
and sings Barry White – how a beaten rug
might sing dust – he is the vehicle
through which the world is singing
WES HOLTERMANN is from Berkeley, California, where he works at a nursery. His writing has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Lumina, and Into the Teeth of the Wind, among others. His chapbook, Mouthfeel, in collaboration with artist, Rebecca FIN Simonetti, comes out this spring.