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Stephanie Ford

The Arsonist

 

The arsonist rouges the edge of the city

like suffering pranks up the edge of all things.

 

So we ready the car: robes, coffee, the figment

shades of our passing faces, and say

 

the cloud tower looks like Hiroshima

or a movie about Mount Vesuvius. They share

 

a cumulus sizzle: heat crescendoing to the acme

of ornament. And if we and lizards burn, which

 

will insist on naming the loss? Over and over,

we write our goodbyes in the hot tub water,

 

heave our barbed orisons, fan the inferno.

We only loved the lean-limbed tree

 

for the spark it made of us: a moveable limelight.

If a dime’s worth of cinder tapped us

 

on our smooth brows, how thinly

we’d bear it. Just take the damn picture.

 

 

 

Political Thriller

 

What would you do

with unlimited resources?

 

In this scene, set

in the gorgeous grisaille of

what looks like Berlin,

 

the nicked-cheekbone hero risks

his new raincoat.

 

We want the odorless intrigue

of those cool Corbusiers. We do!

We, too, live in a city.

In this scene,

the electric cross lights up

the hill where we bury our dead.

In this scene,

our neighbor the false blonde

performs for a camera,

so labored her bliss looks

excruciate. Meanwhile, on screen,

the district attorney’s prettiness

glows, and in that instant, strobe-lit,

the killers come out.

I am the silent extra

trying to take cover as the logic

scatters like buckshot.

By contract, I cannot open my mouth

against the fake-bad greed

of the invented multinational

or pitch this other plot,

 

in which somebody’s mother

sits in a plastic patio chair

smoking Camels, bad back to the camera,

in the unlit window of her adequate life.

 

 

 

Death by Comet

 

On my African honeymoon,

says the woman who, like me,

licks the devil’s food cake

from each tine of her sleek fork

the villagers said, ‘The earth is sick,’

 

not knowing, as we

presume to

 

 

The swallowing self

goes to pieces, tends its decay

like a clutch of cracked

diamonds. Myself included.

All you poets

 

what do we deserve?

A metallic green Happy Birthday balloon

lub-dubbing in the gutter

 

or a tidal wave

 

of love.

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