Posted by: Rachel Mallino | April 26, 2009

Dysfunctional Batch #5 – Jay Robinson

About the (dys)functional poet: Jay Robinson teaches English Composition at the University of Akron. He’s Co-Editor-in-Chief / Reviews Editor of Barn Owl Review. His poems have appeared in Anti, Mars Hill Review, Plainsongs, Softblow, Tar River Poetry, Weave. Prose has been published in Agni and Poetry.

clementine

PEPPER OIL

Lunch at a crowded café. A table for two
on the brick patio, daylilies like raisins
in the humidity.
…………………… Rain drifted down
on one side of the street, nothing
but blue sky on the other. Was the storm
moving toward them or away?
he wondered.
………………….. Then he went back
to their conversation.
……………………………. A certain shade of red,
she told him, if seen in moonlight,
could induce an orgasm. The letter F
smelled like baked cod, rosemary,
and pepper oil.
…………………… Everyone’s a synesthete,
she added, exhaling on a cigarette
as she spoke.
…………………… But he was color blind,
a marginal cellist in the Detroit
Symphony Orchestra. Things got
confusing when she told him how
F sharp was always green.
…………………………………….. A van
sped past, Metallica blasting. He turned
to look. She didn’t have to.
……………………………………… He sipped
from a tumbler of water, swallowed
a burp.
……….. When their food arrived, she said
phad thai always smelled like fireworks.
He stared at his plate, banana shoots
like a cluster of wires, green onions
everywhere like freckles.
………………………………… Then a car
backfired. Cedar singed the air.

GUINEA PIGS

For three days they’d been getting paid
to pop green capsules in a cheap hotel.
Men in matching beige Norfolk jackets
rented them connecting rooms, hung
rusty locks on both sides of the door.
Their work asked them to chart
dosages and downtime, the frequency
of trips to the john, what results,
if any.
…………But by day four she’d had enough
of pay-per-view nights and afternoons
in curlers. She started fingering messages
in the air-conditioned fog of her window
when she should’ve been having lunch,
knocking on walls in Morse Code.

On day five she snuck to the lobby,
and he was sitting there, legs crossed
at the ankles, one foot tapping the floor.
She hadn’t seen him since the meeting
before the test.  His face was flushed,
pupils dilated like a dog’s.
………………………………… Socializing,
she recalled, was against the rules.  I can’t
believe, she said, an empty chair between them,
you can pay the rent with gigs like these.
He coughed twice.  Then he laughed.  Well,
I can’t believe you want to clear
your Visa bill.
………………….When it was over, they took
a cab to the apartment.  I’m starving, she said,
and stared at Lansing sliding by.  It was
late evening.  What about lasagna? he asked.
The cab rolled to a stop.  She thought
about the lack of ricotta cheese in his recipe.
Maybe something else, she told him.
She couldn’t handle another experiment.

GOLDFINCHES

If it rained in the afternoon, she painted
toenails sand beige, fingernails
apricot, and tried to make a grocery list
before the sun went down, unless
the sky turned purple, in which case
she phoned her mother. What’s
your recipe for red velvet cake?
she’d ask. Nothing but the rasp of static
on the line.
……………….If she drove over
railroad tracks, or passed a cemetery
at dawn, she changed stations, hoping
for Prokofiev, knowing it would be
Bob Seger every time. Two straight days
of thunderstorms meant another night
on the lake, boats tied to the dock
and bobbing, everything she wanted
at least fifty miles away.
…………………………………..If he hadn’t
phoned in eight hours, she’d dye
her hair black, rearrange walk-in closets.
After all, he only stopped by
when she wasn’t wearing lipstick.
……………………………………………..Once,
after splitting two bottles of Chianti,
he asked, Are you superstitious?
It was Wednesday.  Sometimes
on the weekends, she replied. Then
she promised to let him smell
her blouses and sheets.
………………………………….Afterwards,
she peeled a dozen clementines
because a pair of goldfinches bathing
in the 7-11 parking lot required prayers
to St. Francis of Asissi. Schnauzers
barking on the mossy back patio
of her neighbor’s cape cod
had nothing to do with the full moon.

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