He wants her seventy-five percent off.
She wishes all of him was gone.
Looking for bargains at the mall,
he spots a woman trying on pumps,
calculates her willingness to talk to him.
He touches her red tag with his sales pitch,
discovers how hard a bargain he must drive
to convince her to leave ruby heels
at the store, accept his offer
of drinks at a chain brewery, clear
her mind of all values but his.
She tries to escape a salesman
who sees her assets doubling
in his thoughts, wishes she’d part
with her dress and underwear
for much less than she’s willing
to give. Chewing the cherry of
her cocktail, she ignores his words,
consumes the beverage quickly
before loneliness softens her
resistance. Flicking the straw
in her mouth she keeps her
empty apartment from her brain,
sees only his greasiness, lust
that will never nourish her.
He finds out there’s nothing to buy.
She clips his eyes, she’s not “It.”
We don’t need you tonight,
antique stars, out-of-date grass.
Every kind of good thing
is spread out before us,
video games and full-octane
engines, bombs delivered by
ACME, roadrunners set to
implode. You’ve been defeated
by American know-how.
With my lawnmower I can cut
you into shavings, swirl you
down drains of concrete gutters.
With my telescope I can do away
with myths, erase dots of bears
and heroes with scientific charts.
I suspect you have secrets
you don’t want to tell me.
A certain destination that leaves
point toward with wilting fingers.
A place I’ll never explore in
a space suit with robot pinchers.
They make me want to sit
on this missile I built, launch it
into the earth so everyone
joins another life together.
Instead, I hold a flag atop
my roof, scream out obscenities.
Neighbors join me on their houses,
waving power saws, children
surrounding us with mounds
of electronics, shooting sparks.
When the bonfires start in the city
we smell you burning, though
you’re alive in cracks we can’t
penetrate and your light arrives late,
a million years of curses
inside your radioactive breath.
Pillowcases smother the boys,
pink sheets with teddy bears
strangle their pretend girlfriends,
blankets hold suffocation parties
with grandparents and uncles.
Linens tire of being bloodless
and clean. Plastic bags can’t
constrain them, managers get
pulled tight over mattresses
till their bodies stretch apart.
Salesclerks shiver behind stereos
until the fabrics fall asleep.
Customers have had this coming
for years, treating bedroom sets
like interchangeable lovers
they stain and change at will,
leaving them in washers till they
drown in soap, suffer mildew,
throwing them in plastic bags
or ripping them into shreds
when they’re too old or faded
to please their eyes. Now,
in the mall where they thought
they were safe, comforters hide
in a fridge buyers are inspecting.
It sucks their bodies into the cold,
feels their warmth as their arms
and legs fight then drop. They
become cold as a carton of
milk, dead enough to sleep on.
Donald Illich has published poetry in The Iowa Review, Fourteen Hills, Roanoke Review, and New Zoo Poetry Review. His work will be included infuture issues of dANDelion, Passages North, Nexus, Nimrod, Lit, Combo Magazine, Sow's Ear Poetry Review, and The Sulphur River Literary Review. He received a Prairie Schooner scholarship to the 2006 Nebraska Summer Writer’s Conference and a 2006 Pushcart Prize nomination.