Two Poems by Bill Neumire

The City’s Pediatric Emergency Room

  1. A woman with rainbow braids & maps painted on her fingernails threatens to kill her own daughter as you glare at the fluorescent drinks in the row of machines. Another ambulance backs in with another stretcher & the security man will take all your metal accessories. The checkerboard of lights has seceded from the sun’s hours & there’s no parking near the exit. The baby whimpers as the line moves a little. The woman is demanding, now, that the police arrest her daughter, & a sparkly blue drink spins in the gut of the machine, & no one in the whole city is sleeping, but she keeps yelling will someone please do something?
  2. This morning the pig-tailed, corduroy-legged neighbor girl was erased by a red Mazda
    that was, actually, obeying the limit. She’s still there, though, like a De Kooning erased by Rauschenberg. In a box of facts, I found that you can tickle a penguin into a shattering chuckle & that babies’ eyes all begin blue. There are men in chimneys today & streets being named after berries which were named after scientists who were named after saints. Can we go on? Apparently, for the shifts are turning at the paper mill: night to graveyard, graveyard to day, manufacturing calendars with empty boxes for all your plans.

Context

It is the hour of the furnace
& the burl of heart. Behind
the walls there are pipes
in which water trawls the house.
Black as your television is tonight,
sitcoms laugh on
& at the Laundromat, the lights
never extinguish. There’s no sleep
for us. Marx said we only ask
what we can answer.
In a factory that never closes
my father worked
until they buried him in cogs.
Now I work the graveyard
shift & pray to the angel
of stillness & dark matter.
There’s always a furnace,
always a school of sleepless fish
skirting away. The halves
we don’t get become insomnias
& syndromes, little stars burning
themselves inside us.


Bill Neumire’s recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Laurel Review, American Poetry Journal, Hollins Critic, and Salamander. In addition to writing, he currently serves as an assistant editor for Brickhouse Books, as well as the literary magazine Verdad.

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