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3 Poems 

Illustration for Shark in a Jar - MATTHEW MORGAN


You will see a mountain. You will uncover a code

at the checkout. Be alert for strange dogs

in your basement and very clean windows.

If you encounter a baby carriage, keep

walking. If you trip on a phoneme outside

your native language, wrestle with it until it lies

flat. If awoken at five by sidewalk construction,

slide into a second dream. When the shape shifters

knock, let them in. When dread and forgotten names

join hands, hold your breath. Each time you round

a corner in search of a lavatory, another flight

of stairs will appear. You won't know the structure

of the aircraft you're in. Relief is close at hand.


I stepped into a statue

to see if I would fit, tilted

my head and raised my arms,

shouldered a musket, held still

hoping no one would notice my blinks.

I felt my skin harden and turn dull

bronze, standing above a plaque

bearing my name which some paused

to read on their way to the Mexican

restaurant where you can order

a burrito the size of a baby, and if

you finish every bite win a T-shirt,

say cheese with the wait staff.

Meanwhile I was frozen outside,

no longer trembling or wishing

I had someplace interesting to be.

Shark in a Jar

FD & C Blue No. 1 plus formaldehyde

looks just like the Atlantic. Face-first

in sealed aqua, banana-shaped. Memories

of boardwalk daiquiris, the mosaic

of his mother's shed teeth glittering

from a sandbar. His smile a slit throat.

He thought there would be others,

pickled playmates. Perhaps other stunted

threats: scorpion in a jar, tarantula in a jar.

Or babies kept cute forever: flamingo in a jar,

manatee in a jar. Or freaks, saved from

sideshow life: tiniest girl in the world in a jar.

They'd float towards one another, finger to fin.

But he's perched between mantle knickknacks.

Bust of Freud, kissing angels, homemade

dreamcatcher. He dreams of dunes,

tapas and jazz, fusion cuisine, the cheerful

tourist trolley, the useless whistles that swung

on well-oiled chests of lifeguards.

The jewelled ferris wheel after dark. Here,

houseguests rock his mini-tank from side

to side, as if they could wake him, as if

he were precious.

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Vol 27, No 38
February 13, 2020

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