poetry by jonathan yungkans
Say This Is a Street Therefore People Walk Down It
after John Ashbery
Raccoons hunt trash cans for Snow White’s apple. It’s like brewing
trouble or coffee through a nylon stocking. Don’t think
about the glass slipper, it’ll be fine.
This isn’t chopped fairy tales, just keeping my metaphors
in something approaching a row, since ducks are nowhere in sight:
scattered by shotgun interruptions of a genetically-unsound mind,
fired in random directions as my thoughts danced tracks
northbound toward Union Station.
Some days, this feels like the place where myths come
to die, discarded like cigarette butts flicked to somersault and chill,
ossify in a Philip Marlow reflection, past words, into chess pieces
close-up and personal on Rick’s board in Casablanca,
while I blur Bogarts, amalgamate
loners in a lonely place, the road alongside my house.
Anger flash-cartwheels as it did with Dixon Steele, another Bogart;
its fists work me. Cigarette butts, coffin nails in Bogie’s parlance,
line the street, a row to hammer down the casket lid.
Coffee’s black, the morning rancid.
The raccoons left a peanut butter jar beneath a bush.
I can spread what’s inside for my most important trauma of the day.
My words play tricks on me with fractured slogans—most important
trauma of the day, Attention Derailment Disorder—
refuse thrown from brain to street.
My wit’s the glue that keeps this plywood laminated,
tacked onto joists into a floor through which I hope not to plummet,
while the L.A. skyline devours an orange supermoon as it descends,
as if we still grew oranges in earnest, the apple
of my eye booked in a fairy tale
on Amazon. Raccoons find Snow White’s fruit;
each takes a bite, then drunk-staggers to sleep it off under a pick-up.
Through Eyes, Into Eyes
i look you back from looking through me lone wolf
What could pass as my own madness pads in animal form
across what’s left of a neighbor’s abandoned lawn, climbs
up cement porch steps—long silver-haired, lean, quick:
a wild dog or wolf, too big for a coyote—who disappears
as black air wraps its cold around me in my glider chair,
me awake from hours stretched into a slow, starved roam—
and reappears to stare directly at me, across a breezeway
it could hurdle with ease were it so inclined, ice-blue eyes
unwavering from my green. Six feet of air and inclination
separates us in pre-dawn stillness. Only its eye color betrays
some forbearer might have known steps like these—no wolf
has blue eyes, not a mirror’s silver-blue— and here a pair,
gazing into me like I’m a pier glass, and me back into them,
a reminder that, yes, this is me, mind starved and on prowl,
trapped like an animal who gnaws off a limb, leaves a trail
as it hobbles off, gives no thought of being blood-tracked.
I’ve split in two, limping through moonlit brushwood
while the reasonable part of me follows the trail of drops,
an expert tracker, who knows what a cornered beast will do,
especially at night, when torment bays at its highest pitch.
I watch myself through canine eyes, no bird awake to break
stillness. Sitting in this chair, I still feel teeth grind on bone,
crazed and lucid, in a stare-off, ready to dine on each other,
while night, as it circles, devours us both, leaves nothing.