Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over a thousand of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver.
Now your beauty is all furniture. It has been moved around too much. (Henry Miller)
The people of Denver lined up by the thousands to see the Corpse Plant. It allegedly had the largest flower in the world, and only bloomed every fifteen years. It smelled like shit. People waited for hours to get a whiff of it. Only the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars stayed away. They’d already smelled plenty of death.
The Danes owned an island in the tropics. They brought in a million slaves to make sugar. Everyone’s taste buds got corrupted. Plain fruit was no longer enough.
I took my one-year-old granddaughter. She was very well-behaved. She waited like a little adult to catch the whiff of death.
It was hot and hungry and slaves died in droves. Some got the disease, Yaws. The Danes isolated them on Yawzi Point, a small peninsula thick with cacti. They put up a sign: Don’t go here. The slaves stayed on the jut of land until they died.
Yom Kippur was coming. Jews were confessing their sins, even sins they themselves had never committed. They were asking Big G to write them down in the Book of Life for another year. Many of them were cheating on the required fasting. They didn’t think Big G would notice. They filed by the Corpse Plant just like anyone else, anyone who was not a member of the Chosen People.
Now the Danes come to party. They plant their flags on the beach. Some fool tries to make bay rum from a bay rum tree. They drink copious amounts of Jamaican beer. They toast the Pope and the Dalai Lama. They toast Helen Keller. They toast anyone who comes to mind. They toast a Dane who made it big in the American Baseball League.
Everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, wrinkled their noses at the smell. I stood by the ventilation exhaust fan to get a fuller whiff. Without sharing this, everyone believed that by smelling the Corpse Plant, they were immunizing themselves against Death.
The Danes made furniture out of teak. The furniture was understated. At first, it was handsome, but became progressively battered as it passed from hand to hand, buttocks to buttocks. Now your beauty is furniture. Your boyfriend is a Dane who joined the Hell’s Angels. He’s a furniture mover. He moves your furniture. He moves you.
He no longer moves you. You’ve been moved around too much, much more than the average six times that Americans relocate in their lifetimes. It all has to do with economics. If you’re not willing to migrate, you become a hobo, hopping trains.
My one-year-old granddaughter found other one-year-olds to play with. They joined hands, even the ones who could not yet walk, skipped around a circle, and sang Ring around the rosie, pockets full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
They threw the furniture into a boxcar. They didn’t care if they scratched it. You are a hot mess, a cold mess. Your Resting Bitch Face tells me everything I need to know about you. I can imagine you in elementary school, smug because you knew all the answers, and the pretty girl sitting next to you didn’t. Her face was confused. Your face is a frozen snarl. Your husband closes his eyes. He prefers to remain clueless—his defense since childhood.
The Corpse Plant clumsily slapped its plant hands together in applause. All the other plants were envious that the Corpse Plant could do this, and they couldn’t. The Corpse Plant was like a junior high gymnast, trying to clamp down on his own egotism. He knew that his classmates would always hate him for his advanced and precocious skills, and for his gymnastic muscles. He could see it in their eyes, even at their fiftieth reunion.
You are a few pieces of furniture I got at the Salvation Army. Give me a gallon can of varnish, and I’ll make everything better.