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Two Poems by Jeffrey Haynes | Word Riot

March 16, 2014      

Two Poems by Jeffrey Haynes


the cellist upstairs rehearsing
reminds us often of the whale documentary
we watched one weekend
where all the whales were dying
and it was so depressing
the way the whales moaned to one another
beneath thick blankets of ice
their sad blowholes unable to blow
thus they suffocated
and sank slowly
like fleshy tractor-trailers
to the bottom of the ocean
we didn’t talk for weeks after
and you didn’t dance either
and it was so depressing I remember
we went to my friend’s house
to get stoned and forget about the whales
but no one was home
so we went back to your place
and got stoned by ourselves instead
and ate pretzels watching as a nurse shark
pilfered a beluga’s carcass
while in the background
all the other whales sang for the dead one
or so we were led to believe
by the accompanying strings
but the truth is
no one can actually tell
whether a whale is truly sad or just pretending
because it’s not like anyone speaks whale or anything
for all we know
all the whales could have been happy
this other whale was dead now
because for all we know
this dead whale was an asshole
it could also be entirely possible
that this whale’s death was the answer
to another whale’s prayers
thus affirming the living whale’s belief
in the existence of a benevolent force
who not only answers
but who’s also unafraid
to drop the hammer
or snuff the candle
or strip the varnish off whoever you ask
with no warning
a ceiling fan could come down
and beat your brains in
and it’s not an accident
but god knocking you off his to-do list
and who will we become
if we keep joke-praying
for the cellist upstairs to croak
and finally stop her sawing
and then she does
she drops dead on the spot
and we can finally turn our music down
what will we do when we can talk
to one another again
is it love
when in those few inconspicuous weeks
we just enjoy the silence
before the city brings in
the semi-retired detective
whose specialty is his ability
to sniff out the sort of people we are
and by we
I mean mass murderers
masquerading as songbirds
both talkers in our sleep


The truth of the matter is
you could be doing anything else

for all I know you could be licking
the acid off a triple-A battery

which looks a little like sugar

but which I know from experience
is not sugar

because I did it once
I licked a battery

and my mother scrubbed my tongue
with a dish rag for so long

the next week all I could taste was soap

since then I’ve been terrified of batteries
and the ocean

and also to some extent
the dark

and being alone

although I’m sure 90%
of these are exaggerations

as dolphins are very friendly

from what I’ve heard

and rarely aggressive
unless provoked

and what I’m trying to tell you is that
my formative experiences add up to goose-egg

in the grand scheme of things

because you could be doing anything else
you could

with anyone else
but you’re not

you’re here
and I’m here

and if we were in prison
and there was a riot

I’d totally have your back

About the author:

I am currently an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech, where I also serve as Co-Managing Editor of the minnesota review. My work has appeared in such publications as: Word Riot, Roanoke Review, and Mixed Fruit.

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