:: Article

Bengal Famine Mix & other poems

By Gary J. Shipley.


He’s out there again, eating dogfood from a can and chasing children with a spoon. The children wear animal heads, and speak Egyptian when they’re scared to the man who only ever listens with his hands. It’s as if they are all insatiable for each other.

We leave the backs of our heads on the wall.
We think: when we’re gone the backs of our heads will stay.
It’s too late now to do anything about it.
Everything seems hard to imagine then.

The paralysis grew us into squeezed contraptions.
We risk a photograph of the street outside
At a time when it’s empty and we have suspicions.

There’s always somebody looking for bodies.
There’ll never be a time when all the bodies are accounted for.
Missing bodies serve a purpose.
We’d better never try too hard to find them all.

What cure shall I invent for all those teary mothers stuffed with coping?

It’s too easy to take my cramps for something else
To have them tell me stories about how they never wanted this.
They had ambitions for me of unwrinkled dementia.
They claim for themselves a zoology thriving in hygiene.
They threaten to punch me full of holes if I turn away.

You must flatter yourself with crisis.
You must stop distinguishing between verbs and nouns.
You must try and fail to talk your way out of it.
(Be prepared to masticate your tongue into burger meat.)
You must renounce all claims to the afterlife.
You must floss your teeth with her exhumed hair.
You must sit and drink coffee with other people who sit and drink coffee.

We drank coffee one afternoon and our voices cramped up with blood and dead cake we could not swallow.

Only when we start to think about eating
Can we make soup from our bad breath.

It’s only just started growing.
It doesn’t let us move much, and when it does our arms don’t hang right.
Eventually everything starts to congeal.

We are the detail in the way of a muddy impulse
And our entrails only ever read the past.


This terse concoction peels
On sight and leaks
Us free to drown in babble.

The effect is a ventriloquism of pauses for breath.

Somebody sold our routines to surgeons.
Now when we laugh we laugh gruel.

Our montages are strained pigsties of Sellotape
And our breeding of prisons incontinent.
From our hospital beds we’ll covet
The savagery of witches and the concrete of gangs
Of men on medieval cliff-tops smeared in God.

Toothy mouths raped mute of books
Of gush on droughts and eagle eggs
Of maniac baby-eaters teetering in heels
Of rotting artillery turned into love.

My resolutions pad a delinquent mush.

There’s this place where if I were
There I’d start to grow curious
Hands that’d feel out fucked bodies
And make from their balloons
Domestic animals in various
Likenesses of dead actresses
Turned grisly in the slime of fingers.


We corralled molested children
Filled balloons with their tepid wheezes
And crammed their empty bodies
With bricks to weigh them down.

When they bulldoze our burial sites
They’ll unearth humble things
Churches of breezeblock and broken
Furniture simulating death.

Gary J. Shipley is the author of four books. His work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in The Black Herald, Gargoyle, nthposition, elimae, >kill author, and others. He is on the editorial board of the arts journal SCRIPT.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, December 17th, 2012.