Issue 14

Poetry: Roy Mash

X-Ray Vision

As a boy I wished for X-ray vision,
like Superman
but without his scruples.

You’d think one blouse layer
would be a snap for pupils
keen enough to bore through mountain,

child’s play to pass
through a puny stratum of cashmere;
but it took practice,

I found, and precision,
to lay bare
with the delicate scalpels

of desire,
the lurid cameo
in a comic book bubble

of dashes. Geezers now,
my eyes
without compunction

or ado
drill right through to the adorable

Sky Mall

Now that the air has become a pavement
of potholes, the fuselage a chew toy
for the gods,
now that the wings have begun to flap
like a real bird’s,
the peanuts bubbling out of the cup,
never before have I so wanted these things:
an upside-down tomato garden,
a scale that shows the time in Tokyo,
a wall-size NY Times crossword puzzle.

Somewhere a baby is bawling annoyingly
inside me. When the flight attendants are asked
to take their seats,
I am surprised I have lived this long
without a Frankenstein bobblehead,
an inflatable electric piano,
a precise portion pet feeder.

The descent is too steep, too steep!
I must have these night vision binoculars,
the talking Spanish-English Dictionary,
the collection of Lincoln pennies
with the rare 1943 steel cent.

I play the game of closing my eyes,
testing each moment for the soothing jolt
that signals the end.

Will it never come?

I want to go home,
to sit at my desk with the Boston Red Sox
laser engraved paper weight
containing actual dirt from Fenway Park,
to fritter the afternoon on rounds
of touch-screen Texas Hold’em,
to drift off in flannel
footed pajamas,
as a beige belt
sends gentle, slimming current
to my midriff.

Dentist Chair

I imagine I’m on a chaise lounge beside the pool, with my Mai Tai and my Ray-Bans and my belly that will not soon again be flat, ankles crossed in debonair repose. I like 4 pm, the way it smoothes itself over the wallpaper, its sheen of affable complacency like a captionless New Yorker cartoon.

The paper pillow, the blue bib clipped about my neck, are terribly reassuring. Mr. Insouciance, that’s me! Turn a knob and it’s Guantanamo, but here in temperature-controlled Room Number Two there is not permitted the least crumb of pain. Here is only cosseting; cosseting and concern for every twinge. “Did that hurt? No?” I reply in a telepathic vowel-only language, the Esperanto of dentistry.

Novocaine has turned two gums to girders and the nitrous has begun to sing. The slave trade, I read this morning, is booming. I open the hood of my face. What was it I was supposed to pick up at the store? Dr. Bloom and the hygienist peer in as at an old jalopy. Milk. …And what else? “Turn your head just a bit.” What a great patient. So compliant. And such a dedicated flosser.

The mirror’s pole has pulled back the slick sidewall of my cheek, and shoved the rumpled tongue down and to the side. Carnage everywhere. That earthquake in China was horrible, horrible to think about. But hey, no tsunamis for me! The puddle of saliva at the back of my throat makes a popping, staticky sound snorkeling up the suction tube, something like: shchshchshchsh, through which their shop talk-all mesial-this and buccal-that-dials in and out behind the modulated keening of the drill.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent half my life in this chair; here where there is always and only: Mouth. Mouth. Mouth. Mouth. My little mocker of the sky, little firmament in reverse. Sinkhole. Cul de sac. Old kit bag. Gob of my charmed days. I mumble something through the hardware and the cotton logs; something pithy, miraculous, oracular. “Spit,” he says. And I spit.