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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

BIO: Jeffrey McDaniels is the author of four books of poetry: The Endarkenment (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), Alibi School, The Forgiveness Parade, and The Splinter Factory. His poems have published in many anthologies, including Best American Poetry, New (American) Poets, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He is a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Washington, DC, Commission for the Arts.

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