The Alloy Marquee (a sword swallowers’ support group)
Here comes Bergen of the debauched lung, loincloth
at the permanent tailors, asthma eclipsing. Constrict:
a verb attendees share like kliegways and chrome thrush.
Poor Mike Smith, stage name The Alveoli Avenger
a shade cerebral for the carnival, years apprenticing
under a Winnipeg breath-master and only an ulcer
to his credit. There goes Gramolini Cadwalader
ruminating on the metrics of a mouth. So badly
he wanted to be a troubadour of modern lament
but the xyphoid’s all that panned out. Bringing
the donuts is Callum McLish, GERD robbing
the handle of his prime. He could always proxy
the artisanal like Bob Sherwick whose tongue
fungus forsook the rapier for the Florida citrus
industry’s themed ornaments division,
clementine magi trouncing the sinkhole
outside his bungalow, archangel potpourri
doubling as a crèche with the mind of a nectarine.
Hal arrives with decibel swag, a job on
the whistle assembly line far from his days
as a whole-blade Hephaestus, tent filler a five-footer,
the law of averages gerrymandering the molars
in his mouth. “It’s a matter of esophageal stealth,”
says Burt Hines, former lance king of Mobile turned
class ring resizer of the month, welter catapulting him
to the jade of engraved. Proud men, by the dagger
they connoiter, these gatherings not so much
about rust as loss. Better the haywire ebb,
a wound no greater than spectacle grown stable,
what legacy they’d barter for the alloy marquee.
Shave at night, by lunch you’ll whisker a Kaiser,
my trip to the deli after life reviewed in a tub.
The longer an ailment, the gossamer your duress.
A neighbor leaves for the afternoon chef shift, his
knuckles tilapia while mine contemplate appliqué,
convalesce to the TV where Gene Hackman’s Lex
Luthor yells “Miss Tessmacher,” the faucet’s cascade
contrasting the frozen-cake sound of a hard C-H,
superhero marathons one way to pass an intestine’s
autoimmune. In April, my father drives me to the pharmacy,
his stubble synced with boutonnieres converted to binary,
their tuxedos a shade of Gatorade mixed with colonoscopy
prep; happenstance: this century’s debutante inductionette.
Hometown recuperation has me remembering the day I won
third prize in a hat store’s chili cook-off, the haberdasher
a former meteorologist seated near the cigar baron funded
by the revenue of a humidor. The smaller the city, the more
you hear about niche fortunes and it rankles a Rotarian’s skull.
Presenting the bronze ribbon was a dermatologist who wanted
my birthmark for a brochure, his follicles a noir fan’s silver –
nobody dyes their sideburns here. Corticosteroids should be
kept as far from the perineum as possible, but that’s where
my body chose its vaudeville, the man who IV’d me to sleep
a mensch in mall-counter cologne. Brevity: sedated by an Ethan,
waking to a Naomi explaining the cocktail to the horseradish.
Half of me lives in Hattiesburg. I’ll return with or without a cane,
symptomhood reaching an innkeeper of its own accord.
Jonathan Riccio is a PhD candidate and composition instructor at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. Forthcoming poems appear in Corvus Review, Jazz Cigarette, and Vine Leaves Literary Journal. He received his MFA from the University of Arizona.