Old Blue Chair
Trashing the old blue chair
isn’t easy. Too clumsy
to haul to the landfill, too ugly
to offer free at the roadside,
it coughs mice from rotten cushions
and smirks through years of stains.
So let’s hack it up and burn it.
I’ll saw off the arms, back and legs,
douse the wreck in kerosene,
and when this afternoon’s rain
begins I’ll fire it. The stink
of upholstery may sicken
half the village, but who cares?
Our neighbor smokes meat daily
so we all smell like bacon.
Our other neighbor piles manure
two stories tall and expects us
to admire the horsy fragrance.
Yes, I’ll use the chainsaw. The scream
of its two-cycle engine calms me,
and the hiss of the chain biting wood
reminds me of the miseries
of childhood. You laugh as usual
at my foolish talk, but the chair
regards us with apprehension
now that the mice have escaped,
and the reek of their nests
ghosts into the hot June sky,
representing lifetimes of stink
and aromas that have refined us
to fit this moment in time and space.
The sky bleakens, mouse-colored,
bringing on the rain. The saw raves.
I splash the fuel on the rubble
and ignite it. The blue chair burns
with blue flame, conferring upon us
the glory of the present tense.
Sharpening a blue pencil
instead of a red or yellow one
I feel professional although
I profess no special profession.
Technicians in white lab coats
always choose blue pencils.
Attorneys pouring over law books
also prefer blue pencils.
Yellow pencil for schoolkids.
Red pencils for scrawling poison
pen letters to taunt police.
The shavings accumulate. The point
looks eager to kill. I empty
the debris into the wastebasket
and set it afire. A wisp of smoke
and it’s gone. The pencil stabs
at the sky, punching a little hole
through which even more blue leaks.
If I’d sharpened a red pencil
I’d have to stab myself to spill
a little red into the world.
If I’d sharpened a yellow one
I’d have to poke a summer squash
and allow greasy little seeds
to weep into common ground and sprout.
Maybe I should just write something
rather than wield a weapon.
Maybe I should write something fresh
and then erase it before demons
copy it into their textbooks.
I punctuate the sky once more,
then settle to work with a brisk
yellow legal pad, the blue words
flowing like a genealogy
in a scrawl only slightly mussed
by plowing through little puddles
of that seepage from above.
Having escaped the freak show
by posing as a lawyer,
I arrive at your cottage
with my naked ego shining.
After you bury my stolen
blue serge suit in your compost heap
you clothe me in the standard
American male child outfit:
shorts, T-shirt, and baseball cap.
Nothing weird enough to alert
a suspicious public, only
a slop of human debris to stash
into your spare room where mice
snicker in the baseboards and books
mildew in unread innocence.
How will you explain me
to your tightly buttoned friends?
The days grow shorter. The marsh
sizzles with deerflies honed to kill.
We have to stay indoors and dose
ourselves with gin and tonic
to prevent scurvy and reckless sex.
The freak show police scour
the countryside, but you conceal me
under a tarp whenever
their baying sniffer-dogs approach.
Odd that I never hear that baying,
but your hearing is better than mine.
As summer progresses the heat
generated by that decaying suit
buried in your compost pile
rises in a blue serge haze.
I’m glad I never studied the law
but retained my natural-born
freakish outlook. You love me
for and in spite of it, the stink
of the marsh nightly embalming us
as we lie in our separate beds
reincarnating in layers
of shy but compelling flesh.
William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013).