Their mouths disfigured their faces,
opening. Their black hair about them
in the water. All along
the evening was a leveling
of gazes. We watched each other.
Some of them sang. I could be seen
observing their bubbles
for signs of damage.
I watched their breasts.
More breath was being manufactured.
I was left out being in the plush chair.
I felt, at least, that I was.
The heat in my face. Their tank was lit;
they cast their shadows.
There was no ink clouded in the water.
Theirs was salt water like my tears.
My tears were still in me. Indistinguishable.
Where the singers learned their song
warm winds blow continuously over palms.
My impression of you is so many
commercials. What is a family if not
who does the shopping, who does the buying?
I know you better than that.
You fixed the broken air
when it was so hot in the hospital.
How could that have happened,
if not for you?
That was not your commercial image,
as such. Insurance was always
an issue. The crowding
quote unquote of the room.
Such discomfort in being exposed
to the discomfort of others.
A curtain, at most, two curtains
between my ears and the instruction
of another man on self-catheterization.
And the hours of the days
with—what would you call them?
one of these guys watching Fox News
all day like white noise making
an argument of shouted interruption?
America, I could find you now
or direct anyone at all,
almost, to think – America -
and there you are: some acetylcholine,
some activity in the basolateral amygdala
is you, someone’s experience.
You taught me all I have
to do is dream. How can I
not know you? You’re so
like make-believe, a story problem.
Given the inalienable, what imagining
is equal to the distance between
the imagined and the unlearned?
Cradle gave coffin
respectability, the familiar.
Gave shapeliness to coffin.
Gave a pillow.
Gave mouthfuls of milk,
gave shit and pee to the air
for coffin. Kicking
and sleeping gave, and drool
waking and sleeping for coffin.
For coffin cradle gave
heart and wailing,
gave eight fingers and a thumb.
From coffin cradle kept hush,
kept one pink thumb for suck.
Marc Rahe grew up in Pleasantville, Iowa. He received an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gutcult, Ink node, La Fovea, Notnostrums, Painted Bride Quarterly, Sixth Finch, and other literary journals. Marc lives in Iowa City and works for a human services agency. The Smaller Half from Rescue Press is his first book.