Six Poems by Citro and Nightingale
Collaborative poetry by Christopher Citro and Dustin Nightingale, "There, There" and "Eventually I Grew Up"
Christopher Citro and Dustin Nightingale
Serious Enough For This
He doesn't look like he plays. He's the kind of man who makes difficult decisions. Decisions nobody else wants to make. Imagine being at a fancy restaurant in the clean part of town. You have saved enough for your lady's birthday. After she sits down, after you push in her chair, after being handed a single sheet menu and not saying anything, she says, It all sounds so good I can't decide. In one universe you hand the waiter back the menu and say, Oui, we'll have the lot. In another you're noticing the oak leaves floating in rainwater as you cross to the bus stop. Both universes, of course, end up the same. When you step onto the elevator, narrowly avoiding being crushed by the closing door he hasn't reached out to stop for you, he's understanding both universes, where the corridors of power lead and how it feels once you get there.
Having exhausted all other options, you walk to the supermarket. Passing lawns along the way, ruminating upon the appendix, our lost ability to just flop into a yard and relieve any hunger. Oh! This is where I get to imagine my own history. But it is difficult to have any history when everyone's story is the same. It is also difficult to listen. Listen—someone is paid to select the music they pump in above the frozen meats and vegetables. It's not a job many would do for free. But it keeps the ham pink and the vegetable medley puffy. Imagine what the turkey would look like without the sounds of a bossa nova. Consider the loneliness of the Mexican sodas, how they sit silent each evening when the lights wink out. You can picture them waiting. So much in this life requires rescuing now and then. The circle of warmth around a speaker increases as the volume is turned up, taking in, eventually, even you.
Who's Playing With Whom
Making no allowance for weakness, for the momentary stumble, the wild bobcat of Maine knows this is no time to click his heels and smoke his lucky pipe. There are two ways to prepare to pounce: in one there's a crouch first—she watches him cross a room before following. In the other there's just a mad dash at any opening—she can flex any part of her body and it's not an attack. On your pillow the next morning is the skinned mouse that has been eating your cheese. Field mice have flexible pelvic girdles and oily coatings on their fur allowing them to escape through holes you can barely fit your finger through. The wild bobcat of Maine, though agile in its own right, can only press its mouth over the hole and wait for whatever went in to come back out. And in that she's a bit like you and me when the lights are low and the half-bit moon's struggling to crawl up or down the sky.
Slight of Hands
You want to protect me, so you've brought along some Scotch tape to shut my mouth. You also brought a potato sack and some antique handcuffs once used by Houdini's brother. Do you know about Theodore Hardeen? I have nothing bad to say about him. It's the female of the species that remains with the young, but every now and then you'll meet a woman in love with the sound of rain along a highway, every now and then one gets away. One chips a tooth or finds her own fingernail chewed off on the pillow right by her eye. It would be so easy to say that Houdini swallowed a hook of keys and could regurgitate them like he had fingers in his stomach. It would be easy for you to let me go on and on each evening when it's just you and me and the couch and we've neither of us anything up our sleeves.
Someone came up while you weren't looking and placed flower pots around you. Wait till you see them sprout. In a catalog I used to get when I was a kid, there was such a thing as a sympathy plant. It closed up when you touched it. And when you touched it again it fell asleep. See how good you are? You wanted to save up and send away but always forgot about it as soon as you closed the book. You wanted to have an effect on people. You wanted x-ray glasses that saw more than the pink puddles of flesh. But what else is there? When I grew a peyote button in a green house for 12 years, I couldn't get myself to eat it. Instead I'd carry it to the top of the house on a windy night and sit with it in my lap, petting the side of the pot while the stars above absolutely would not stop spinning into dogs barking at their own images in still ponds.
Eventually I Grew Up
I once was an apostle but no longer. I saw other visions. Books encrusted with crystals grown in humming vats of heavy water. On the inside we all look like rummage sales. I sold my dad's photo book for two dollars to a hipster who thought it was funny. We all hope that's not true. Even the person who bought it. He had a High Life in his hand and is now dead. Somewhere other dead are laughing at me naked in a baby tub with a bubble beard. I'm up a tree throwing nickels at the sun. Have you seen my mittens? Perhaps these are them. Yes, yes they are. It's wonderful when your first memory is a box in the back of a church that your mother tells you to get in and lie down. You are a strange creature, light. It's confusing the way the spring sun through the apple blossoms dapples absolutely everything.
Christopher Citro is the author of The Maintenance of the Shimmy-Shammy (Steel Toe Books, 2015), and his poems appear or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2014, Prairie Schooner, and The Greensboro Review.
Dustin Nightingale lives in West Hartford, Connecticut. His poetry has been or will be published in journals such as new ohio review, Margie, Cimarron Review, Portland Review, and decomP.