Fragile peonies grow
from newfound subdermal magma.
The gentlest wind rustles the petals
into a swarm, rendering mirrors useless.
This heart is a frog,
and God invented both boiling and proverbs.
But what blame can be assigned
for creation, for states of matter?
No, one cannot hate God
for trying to erase the pain of existence.
But Psalm 23 has no effect on me
because yea, as I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I know that He created the valley,
and, in His sovereignty, led me to it.
Yet I will never be Ivan Karamazov—
I am not nearly as selfless.
But I feel that family like a conflagration
in my DNA, something sensual
and blinding and powerful
in the phosphate backbones,
as if a great seal is breaking,
and a temple of a great many known things crumbles.
Here, then, is a list of things I still know: heat
(heat so wet it drowns, heat that speaks lightning,
heat that precludes speech, heat that absolves,
heat that names, heat that covers, heat that tries, heat that severs,
heat like a fat assassin, heat like a bullet train,
heat like a wrecking ball, heat like a eulogy,
heat of demagogues, heat of pantheons,
heat of dust and of nations,
the rhyming heat of body cartography,
the iron heat of inner thighs pressed to cheeks,
the fairy heat of sleeping close to the one you love).
Tell God to remind me that there is heat everywhere,
only less in some places than others.
Cure for Several Ailments, Including Perhaps Loneliness
Let an introvert love you.
She need not be pretty or kind.
She need not even be warm.
She must, however, sing
bioluminescence in moth form, sing
inherence as the wings leave her mouth.
Before or after you make love,
rest your head on her narrow
bare back as she lies there,
head turned away from you.
If you think she hates you,
good—it’s true and it is better
You will try to suck the glow
from her lips during the act,
but when you look at yourself stark
naked in the mirror afterward,
you will see your firefly abdomen fade.
The problem is the same as it was
when you were young:
nothing lives in a jar for long.
When you first feel that you have no more
for her to take, let her keep taking.
When you realize you still have more
for her to take, let her keep taking.
When you again and again feel that you have no more
for her to take, let her keep taking,
until you are always burning a hole
in the floor of you, and you find,
all the way at the bottom,
your own open cocoons.
Cure for Someone Else’s Definition of Masculinity
Approach the glass box inside you
where that atrophied splinter of flesh
remains comatose, sedated by society
or whatever you want to blame.
Knock, and it will wake up like a fish
that has waited its whole life to be fed.
Imagine yourself a swan made of star stuff
as you warm the glass against your body
to melt it and free that part of you, now
dancing into the form of a young girl
(she’ll be eight years old at most;
you’ve stunted her growth so much).
Cut a swath from your blue cloth-walls,
and note how the paint peels to reveal violet.
Make a sundress to the girl’s specifications
(her specifications are, after all, yours),
and study her dancing, the inimitable twirl
of a reawakened galaxy in her skirt frills.
Cut more cloth and make her a bed
so you can tuck her in when she’s done.
Come back the next day and the next (and the next).
Feed her with the hydrogen and deuterium
leaking from the new holes in your cloth-walls.
She’ll burn it all to helium-knowledge. When she’s grown,
fall in love with a bisexual girl.
She need not love you back,
but she must want something from you,
and you must want more than anything
to give it to her. Agree to meet inside you
on a night when the air smells of a beach
on the moon. Do not apologize for the holes
in your walls. Introduce her to the you
that has outgrown her one sundress.
Your lover didn’t know it,
but this is what she wants from you.
Use this room inside you. Use the bed you made.
Use what you learned about making your body
something marvelous, magnanimous, galactic.
Cure for Chronic Childish
You’re gonna carry that weight.
Apply to be a colonist on Mars.
In the ten years before you go,
spend as much time as you can underwater.
Get used to knowing you could suffocate at any time.
With the little time you spend on land, feel
the gravity traveling from your scapulae
down your spine into the earthy blades
of your legs, along the twist of sinew
and into the ground. Memorize it.
Try to overcome it on your own
by standing on roofs, climbing mountains,
jumping out of airplanes. (Is it working?)
Try to carry someone else’s weight.
(What about now?) Carry it
for as long as possible. (Now?)
Hahaha. Look how much water it takes
to float even your inconsequential weight.
And during lift off to Mars, appreciate the immense
amount of energy required to help the dust-speck
that is your body escape Earth’s gravity.
This is how you’ll grow up—weightless
and knowing in the fabric of your desmosomes
how incapable you are.)
Ritual to Keep Your Son from Drowning
After Brian Clements
Upon waking up on the day of your escape,
record the nightmare you just had using a
feather from one of the pairs of wings you
have built. It does not matter which pair,
though either way you are permitted to sulk
in the symbolism once the day is done. If
you cannot remember your nightmare, you
Walk out to the edge of the cliff where you
have been imprisoned. Take a deep breath,
see the sun terrorize the horizon, imagine
falling. Masturbate and watch millions of
your sons plummet into the sea.
Wake your son.
This next part is tricky, but since your name
is “clever worker,” it should not be
impossible. Build a time machine. Redo
fatherhood, starting with the night you
conceived your son. Make love to your wife.
Do not think about the physics, the fulcrum,
the friction. Make love to your wife.
When he is born, love your son the way you
loved the labyrinth. This time around,
refrain from building the labyrinth at all. If
you find yourself having to escape from a
prison by flight anyway, make sure you have
given your son ample reason to not soar
toward the sun—that is, love him away from
As he worked at this,
his young son, Icarus, inquisitive,
stood by and—unaware that what he did
involved a thing that would imperil him—
delighted, grabbed the feathers that the wind
tossed, fluttering, about; or he would ply
the blond wax with his thumb; and as he
the boy disturbed his father’s wonder-work.
Ovid, The Metamorphoses, tr. Allen Mandelbaum
Lex Bobrow is a writer fresh out of school living in south Florida. As a result, he writes a lot about hurricanes and citrus fruit, which makes him laugh at how Floridian he is. More than anything–at his core–he wants to be captivating and therefore powerful.
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Cover photo: Allen Forrest https://maudlinhouse.net/allen-forrest