ralph the tortoise died, falling
& when it was the collector’s turn, we went thru his stuff
raiding his place like locusts, a silence between us
he was, shall we say, a lifelong bachelor—
we expected some gems, figured we’d find hazy polaroids
albums of tricks cursed with restless beauty
how far into the season before the hate-crime episode ???
one image has proven inescapable—
boys in white shirts & khaki shorts
pushing a massive medicine ball
athletic socks pulled up, faces bewildered & pliant
here, resisting the easy analogy of sisyphus
& what a peculiar strength looks like
vaguely masochistic, this zest for life !!!
how ppl used to call bush “shrub”
to me, a cuter variant
hong kong’s leader deemed “689”
not the margin, but votes received
in a rigged election
hi or lo, would u like to be a number
in my body count
see how one casual remark
can render the sum total of ur feelings
a nullity
still, i would rather be a lamppost in new york
than the mayor of philadelphia
i’d be ur seeing-eye dog
where it’s never sunny
untangling the dense knot of love’s invention
or intention
hard to tell, exactly
there’s a quality of prescience i like in u
pinched bottlecap, improvised passion
& 3a train to pound town, obviously a tourist
making eyes, lifting his shirt,
slyly upturning the corners of his mouth
till his gf violently jerks his hand
the way u would yank a leash
if u were inconsiderate
or michael vick
erasing every poem that has claimed
he was “part horse” or red-winged demon
i suppose it doesn’t hurt to be cautiously optimistic—there—
long languid strokes

MICHAEL CHANG (they/them) is the author of many collections of poetry, including SYNTHETIC JUNGLE (Northwestern University Press, 2023) & EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS (GreenTower Press, 2024). They edit poetry at Fence.


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