Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Final Issue 2018
Rob Cook

      His friend abandons her daughter because the thinning money knows too much
about them. He passes his own night watched by wind, the remnants of a Xanax violet,
and she gives her mouth away to a crack-ridden snail moving through the weather, the
nesting hole of what’s been forgotten.

      She builds a fire that will hide him from the visions blowing in from late Chicago,
dollar store gangs looting the available bodies for places to sleep.

      He and his friend leave their names inside a Sears catalog to confuse the darkness.

      He hears housing projects under his flesh where no one recognizes the earth.

      A trembling filament in his head, the friend looks away and says, “I am old enough to
walk forever and still not reach the person standing beside me.”

      She knocks on the first door she comes to. She knocks on the door and leaves him
behind. He can hear the stairwell gulping her footsteps, the soft thunder, and then she’s
gone. He thinks he can wait as long as it takes, but tonight if he wants to belong

      he will have to build his own star:

      one wooden matchbook,
      one barrel of burning rats,
      one wire-stuffed, memory-sugared hominid
      whose name, like his friend, is Tara.

      “She’s not coming back,” he says to that version of no one.

      And when he prays, he hears nothing.

      But when he douses his moods with Tegretol prescribed back in the damaged days of
his life, he can feel his hominid getting by on nothing but arrhythmias and Indiana cell
phone disturbances.

      “Tara took the stairs two at a time and jumped from the roof of her medicine bottle,”
the hominid says.

      The trucks keep blowing by like fear and the rumors of a childhood.

      Tonight the man sleeps through his own flames, having been told by Tara that the
flames do not suffer. And yes, Tara told her daughter the same lie. The night she left. The
night she left.

      “It’s best to go where the fires go,” she said, because her doctors told her, without
charts or maps or sleep, that the flames cry out only in the mouths of Nardil albinos, who
chased her from New York to Tennessee and Tennessee to Chicago and Chicago to the
planet the man built by himself out of nothing but the voices he collected.

      Tonight Tara hitchhikes across the bottomless lake of high-beams, searching for her
daughter, searching for her hominid, and pulls apart each truck that goes dangerously to

      The man and the hominid grope for a warm bed in the shipping container slums that
do not make it to daylight, which is the same as Chicago, where Tara told him, more than
once, that it would be safe to feed her daughter to the holes in her cell phone.

      “The holes do not leave the earth,” she said. “The holes do not leave the earth.”

About Rob Cook

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