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October 23, 2020

Three Poems

Todd Dillard

Please Clap 

I want to be famous but have no talents
so I look up the easiest 
record to break in the Guinness World Book. 

I could never cut my hair again,
could let my fingernails lengthen
until they bramble like lightning,

could kiss my wife for 59 hours,
which would only take us through
six seasons of Friends

But when I get to the one
with the guy who broke the record 
for "most bees on a human body"—

1,000,000 mini buzzsaws, prickly
down coat, uncountable arrows 
knocking on the door of his skin—

I think instead about the 240 pounds of it,
all 2,000 stings, 2,000,000 wings
and not an inch of flight.

This is my favorite mistake to make: 
deciding what want, then relishing the ways 
it’s awful, it breaks me. The truth 

is I don’t want to be famous, 
I want to be seen, 
celebrated for shattering again

the record for the longest life I've lived.
A standing ovation, showers of roses
for the little I have to give.


Mom Hires a Stunt Double 

Sick of all the impossible I ask of her
in these my griefiest poems,

Mom hires a stunt double: same white hair, 
same laugh, same false teeth, same dead.

Now when I write "Mom curls like rinds in a bowl" 
it's her stunt double twisting herself into pithy canoes. 

When I write "At night my mother sheds 
the skin of my mother revealing more mother"

it's her stunt double that unzips her body, 
stands there all shiver and muscle and tendon,

waiting for the next line. "What's in it for you?" 
I ask, and Mom's stunt double shrugs, 

lighting one of those familiar Turkish Silvers 
as behind her my mother mounts a Harley

and barrels into the margins. "You're a good kid," 
the double says. But she doesn't touch my hair.

This close to her, her eyes are all pupil, 
all ink. Her smell: paper and snow.

When she exhales smoke spills from her lips
and unfolds into horses.


My Buddy Dorian Says Everyone Looks Good Coming Out of the Ocean 

He says everyone becomes droplet
disco, bodies themselves but also

something else, the way buildings
ignite in Vegas in twilight—

"It's walking back to shore that's never sexy,”
he says: flopping over waves, regrowing legs—

and there’s a question here, surely 
as there are bones in a field of bluebonnets—

but we’ve been at this Taco Bell for an hour 
drinking flask-spiked Pepsis and eating nacho bowls,

watching a man in the parking lot 
paint yellow traffic arrows black, 

then watching as he goes back over them,
painting smaller, yellow arrows on top

so it looks like the new arrows hover, 
casting shadows big as mammoths. 

“Why? Why?” we ask like a philosopher’s parrots.
“Why? Why?” as we drag bills from our wallets,

go outside, inspect an arrow like children 
studying a beached moon jelly.

“Dare you to touch it,” Dorian says,
and I do, and paint butters my skin,

my hand becomes a torch, crackling, bright—
“Hey!” the painter hollers—and we run—

and for a moment I am myself and also 
something beautiful, something that shines.