The Rusty Toque | Issue 10 | Poetry | June 30, 2016
This is the bar shot through the head of Mr. Phinehas[sic].
I think if a teaspoon of my brain fell on the floor like
Phineas Gage, I’m certain anything can happen.
Bangarang—pop goes the smut inside his inverted funnel
head. Long before dynamite. Iron sparked and powder
exploded. Rocketed tamper iron whistled as it flew
smeared with blood and brain. No one believing the man
had risen until they thrust their fingers into the hole of his
head. Through the gorge in bone, a grotto, clear as space
and time. Particles, atoms, a tiny pinecone seated in the
center. Rice-sized holding free radicals and hope. God’s
parting gift. Faint breath, or rather, a lusty, divine scald. [*]
That he was done no doubt he knew, with skin covering his
skull like a slack sock. Phineas in a frenzy calls for his
pants. Flashes a wink, persistent and creepy, no longer
gage. Son of disobedience. He put on display with his iron
for money. Under the part, pulsating, impatient wastrel.
His moments based on the scientific license of flowing
water released by two electric currents. Lucifer, you
remind me of a head injury, before irony. Our parables
compromised. Some facts may have aged gracelessly.
This should have happened. Phineas held captive first by
love, then by spring. Something like woe, like wonder, the
sudden joy that bumblebees create luscious honey. These
bees rising lazily above the hard clay of a Californian
valley. Wooly blue curls, fig wort, ruby bing. Now made
mad from flowers with superior ovaries enclosed in wax.
Incipient colony, what are you, but sticky slime and fleshy
drupe. Filled with nectar, a woozy mob, waggle dancing.
This, the reason bees build perfect hexagons and why you
continue to use that photo, in which you look like you
believe you know everything.[**]
Let us suppose: a queen bee walks into a bar. The
bartender says, What’ll it bee? Brushing him off she
proceeds to order a series of Old-fashioneds. Later, the
queen—corralled by overflowing glasses minus the
cherry—looks up to see a rufous-belted bumblebee seated
to her left. Before you can say releaser pheromones she is
clinging tenaciously to the tongue of this savage worker.
Her engorged, translucent stomach trembles, lurid, cerise,
candy sweet. He breaks free locking his mandibles to the
base of her wings. A scuffle ensues. The queen, now
wingless, dripping royal jelly demands a cab. It is like this
each time. [***]
This afternoon, Phineas watches the feeble queen oviposit
as the virgin queen tears off her head. Giddy, he numbly
knocks over their sugar feeder and is all over stings. On the
ground, Phineas lying still, extremities numb. A garish
light above radiates thousands of spirits, dancing at once
upon a needle’s point. His own wings far too weak. Here
they come. The most ridiculous fact of this melancholy
affair is that we are alive. And spring, at last, sweet spring
[*] We need now mention the pineal gland and science. And as
scientists we must reiterate—we have nothing to say about the
soul—except, the Pacific hagfish is known to have five hearts
but no “soul”. These slime eels slither into dead and dying
organisms to eat them inside out.
[**] It is of comparatively little use to make observations on the
behavior of any organism unless one knows with what species
one is dealing with. This is especially true in working with
insects, of which over 500,000 species have thus far been
described—that said, an example has been provided nonetheless.
[***] As we shall see later, this statement of the poet is untenable
Four chambers throb with feeling, free it from its bony cage.
In the General Hospital, my father the greatest pirate the Caribbean has ever known chases after the modern priestess of Delphi. Behind him a village burns—a dead wife pops a head out of a barrel before plunging over the falls of Niagara. This means nothing, says the priestess. As she blandly caresses his prostate gland at once un-erotically swollen a walnut an apricot a lemon. It has been ages since he’s been shown this kind of attention since someone bound his arms to a bed.
My father the pirate is overcome by downplayed emotion. His heart near implosion almost too fat to push on. He says, I’m just grateful love is preferred but not required and btw the temple has fallen. Then, of course, he clocks the priestess with an empty bottle of gin and she pops him in the eye with a crystal ball. Followed by an easy collapse in a heap and a laughing and holding of heads he asks her, Why must we begin all over again? she answers, Get up and answer the door.
Outside a truck passes with a dog—his dog head out the window sniffing the breeze, ears flapping. My father the pirate says, This is too easy and sad, and slams the door.
Moments later, Norma, the nurse, enters to request action. Norma reports—my father’s chart is unable to start a urine stream therefore, it will remain in a sedated state until the DTs have passed.
She asks, What is today’s plan?
She asks, What is important to we?
She asks, If we can keep the drug level high
except she calls it the soapy suds routine.
My father answers, Norma, I’m just a fucking bum and I need a drink except it comes out Ahhahahaha.
Nearby a Foley catheter fills a bota bag with Dago red.
Norma will recommend something for depression as manifested by sad facial expressions and while this is not as poignant as a terminal illness it still makes her sigh. In much the same way a plastic parakeet perched on the nightstand of a senile, former magician is not as tragic as a hallucinating, estranged father calling for his dead dog.
At this point, Norma has disappeared entirely in search of an erasable marker. And, as my attempt to pry the agender Jesus from the wall proves useless I decide to turn my attention to the pirate —who, it appears by the thrashing and pitching is caught in a riptide. Between you and me I’m certain this story ends well, the pirate intact afloat clinging to his Foley tube tow line. Nonetheless, I hover pretending to catch hold of his hands.
He looks at me directly with a second pair of eyes and says Martini, there you are. And I say, Norma, we need help—he doesn’t remember me, which means I have no memory of you.
JULIA TRANCHINA is a writer, poet, and municipal employee, who has recently been named a 2016 Lambda Literary Fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in places like Bone Bouquet, Rogue Agent, Vinyl, Permafrost and Juked. She was born, raised, and lives still, in San Jose, California (before it was never cool) with her wife and four-year-old twins. To find more of her work, please visit clodhopper.com.