washington, dc

31 october 2008


Pigs From the Future Are Being Sold
Vehicular Manslaughter   
What's It To You?
Early Childhood Development
A Valediction Forbidding Semiotics

About Michael Gushue



Pigs From the Future Are Being Sold

Pigs from the future are being sold.
Let’s re-win our favorite wars.
Worst pick up line ever? Get in the van.
What kind of society are we?

Let’s re-win our favorite wars
like cowboys in a mirage of trouble.
What kind of society are we?
Barbed wire fashion accessories.

Like cowboys in a mirage of trouble
we are re-wiring all our lost neurons.
Barbed wire fashion accessories
keep us down on the farm.

We are re-wiring all our lost neurons
because strangers have the best candy.
Keep us down on the farm,
Oh Lady of Perpetual Serotonin!

Because strangers have the best candy,
we are happy under the big top.
Oh Lady of Perpetual Serotonin,
show us the way to the next whiskey bar.

We are happy under the big top
where interns practice without a net.
Show us the way to the next whiskey bar
where a kiss is still an aneurysm.

Where interns practice without a net,
where the truncheon meets the head,
where a kiss is still an aneurysm,
detainees get what they deserve.

Where the truncheon meets the head
pigs from the future are being sold.
Detainees get what they deserve:
the worst pickup line ever: Get in the van.



Vehicular Manslaughter

300 million years ago, a fish panting on a rock
pretty soon inchworms forward, then billions
crowd arable land, get stuck in elevators,

wait in line, take alternate routes, get root canals.
The body, now with scarce fur and upright posture,
apparently wants tear gas thrown at it, wants

repetitive tasks, or bypass surgery,
to be ignored, or looked at—not too closely.
Though it craves and fears trans-fatty acids,

the body mostly wants to stick together,
retain “valuable saline content of Paleozoic.”
It is also a Leyden jar of rage, ready to burst

apart like a raspberry Jell-o balloon in a snit,
and this is a very special episode
of mystery science theater to the body.

Maybe grandfather was a lungfish thinking:
“let me out of this broth before something eats me.”
Maybe because, when it drives its luxury sedan,

its legs try to be as vestigial as possible,
and, though it shares crumbs of its luxury’s stupor,
it will run you down when its headlights eat you.

Is this why it feels if it walked off this page
the body would blossom into breaking?
Is this why—though it is horrible and grisly—

vehicular manslaughter is such a beautiful phrase?
The reverse gulp at the center of one word,
the shredded cabbage in the middle of the other.



What's It To You?

Don’t be taken in. The word ‘you’ means something
different each time. That’s the indeterminate
hornswoggle mucking your garden path china shop.

The word ‘me’ is nothing—the clouds having
a gay old time, lobsters moshing in their tank,
the intense talk you’re not having with the redhead

wearing red lipstick reading Le Rouge et le Noir.
Spill scalding tom yum goong in your lap
to experience the pleasant sensation of having

attracted her attention. Picture her desirous
of your mouth, this ruby of a woman. See what I
mean about sincerity? It’s a blinded finch kept

in cedar box like a lantern with stab of fire in it.
And that’s life—tachycardia, vertigo, aphasia,
delirium—brought to you by sudden beauty always
insufficiently ironic. You never know what’s

in front of you until it breaks. The world is
mostly empty and cold, and made up of quarks,
innumerable numbers of them, tops and bottoms,

ups and downs, the estranged and the charmed,
all waiting in line for their turn,
tired to death of hearing their own voices.



Early Childhood Development

Mom didn’t like us watching TV when
it was perfectly nice outside and didn’t like

that boob meant both idiot and breast—
what kind of thing is that to teach children?—

and told us to go play in the yard until breakfast
but outside was dark and airless and neither hot

nor cold but that man maketh it so, so we hid
behind the sofa because supplies were running

low, our clothes threadbare and darned, and
it took lots of spit and polish to perform our routine,

just as it took braggadocio to even think we could
emerge victorious and because, believe you me,

there’s no place like home for the holidays, or,
as the littlest of us said, home is other people,

although ours did not have a well-defined top
surface, particularly off the coast of Brazil,

and so became more and more rarefied
as we left it, and where it began “for real”

was debatable, though there were many of us,
like in Alcott but lacking the esprit de corps

of absolute poverty. The sofa was so oppressive
we felt the onset of vast pulmonary difficulties,

yet we’ll remember this with the absolute nostalgia
an amputee feels for her blown-off, missing limbs.



A Valediction Forbidding Semiotics

The more you know, the more you don’t know.
You ask the Mountain and the Mountain says:
Please Go Away. Or else everything is the River,

and if it’s not the River, it’s in the River,
and the Ferryman can’t break a twenty,
the Tao that is spoken ain’t found online,

and if it’s not one thing, it’s another—
and who’s weird theory is that anyway?
What I’m trying to saying is: I don’t know you.

On the other hand, limits are what we have.
It’s either how fast or which way, choice
of coleslaw or fries, wave or particle.

What it’s like to be you is beyond me. You
might be a moth dreaming I’m a magnet
dreaming I’m a fishnet dreaming you’re pollen.

But it’s not what you know. Even when we’re
not talking, we’re talking. Words are thrown
out to see what the other will say.

It’s not wisdom we want, but valence.
So no semiotics, please. Dry those signifiers.
We want even leaving to be an event,

string of air, axioms, not exits or billboards.
What we say to each other is one part
cinder, two parts ruby-throated Psyche:

words are not signage. Words are what happen—
exposure and bereavement, euphoros
they fill a comb of cells, fold-loving,

foraging in pleats and lips of roses,
the burst heat of asters and cosmos—
they hold in them the dark nectar in things.



was the poetry editor for the Washington Spark. He co-curates the BAWA* Poetry Series and co-runs Vrzhu (pronounced ver-zhoo) Press (www.vrzhu.com), a micropress for poetry books of various lengths. His work has appeared in places like American Letters & Commentary, The Germ, Redivider, Hotel Amerika, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly. His chapbook Gathering Down Women is available from Pudding House Press. He writes regularly for the Vrzhu Bullets of Love blog, works in international development and lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC.