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Jeffrey McDaniel


Confessions of a Flawed Deity

Looking at your face now, thirty-nine years
after the fact, is like returning to a crime scene.

Every tooth in your mouth is shaped
like my tombstone, each bone in your hand

is a last straw capable of breaking my back.
I apologize for the hairline. I cut corners

on the follicles, and that was my fault.
But how about them thighs? Strong enough

to crack walnuts. And how about the hazel
I drizzled into your sockets? Sparkly darkness
I called it. Wanting you to be fierce, 
but not bloodthirsty, I modeled your nose 

after a shark’s, sanded your teeth down to the dullness
of a grouper’s. I’m sorry for lifting your fingerprints

from two opposing sources—I loved the idea
of your hands constantly being pulled

in two directions. Obviously I poured too much
acceleration into your temper—I didn’t 

want you getting trampled and figured (incorrectly)
your slender wrists would keep your fists

dangling at your sides. But oh that pulsating 
estuary—thoughts twinkling in your mind

shimmer like glow-in-the-dark jellyfish. 
It still feels like I am the razor, and you 

are the wrist, like I’m the window, 
and you’re the person about to jump out.
I’m from touch football in parking lots and street-corner Romeos
I’m from half-brothers and three-quarter nelsons
I’m from watered-down blue blood and finger-painting on subway walls
I’m from tongue kisses in stairwells and tequila sunsets in the closet
I’m from stealing the coins out of other people’s wishing wells
I’m from jordache jeans and pick-up games in the twilight
I’m from Italian girls wearing murmurs I oh so badly wanted to speak
I’m from sidestepped obligations and nomadic fingertips
I’m from listerine in alleyways and whiskers in the vaseline
I’m from unreliable narrators and abandoned buildings
I’m from don’t cross 24th Street because of the Irish and don’t cross South
   Street because of the blacks
I’m from the merry-go-round where white guys in cars slow down after
   midnight to take a visual bite out of my twelve-year-old ass 
I’m from fuck you when my friends are around, and please stop looking
   at me,
please stop looking at me, please stop looking at me, when I’m alone 
I’m from sucker punches and a mouthful of blood spit in my face
I’m from a nightgown breathing at the bottom of a staircase
I’m from I wished you died in that hospital
I’m from exit plans that involve shotguns
I’m from you gonna front like the hard guy, you better back that shit up.
The Pool 
Twelve years old, treading water in the deep end
when Maria Goretti swims up and snatches

my tennis ball, clutches it to her new chest,
dares me to wrestle it back. The world—the lifeguard

in his elevated metal bucket, the grown-ups
buried in their lounge chairs, the other kids shallow-end

frolicking—can only see our heads, the twelve inches
bobbing above water, not the other fifty-eight

writhing beneath the surface, our silk thighs brushing,
our bathing suits bursting with these new pieces

of organic technology invented inside us. The grown-ups,
nerve endings filed down to a bore, and the lifeguard

with his transistor brain don’t know Maria and I
have grown gills, that we’re breathing underwater, that life

is happening down here. In twenty years, we’ll climb out,
grab towels, slide on wedding rings, and sink

into our respective lounge chairs. The grown-ups
will have moved to Florida, a state with so many old people

it looks like a coffin being lowered at an angle
into the earth. The pool will be cemented over, paved

into a parking lot, where once a year Maria and I will come
with our bathing suits bunched up in our pockets

and stare at the yellow lines and the nicked fenders and think
how certain tailpipes look like the rusty lips of snorkels.
          -from The Endarkenmant

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