[Historic Main Street, El Paso, postmarked El Paso, Texas, 24 February 2003, address illegible]
Blood is only blood when warm, when
cold it congeals to simple mess,
to a nightly shift & a thin
wad of cash to wire back. I dress
in the same stained jeans each night, the was-blood
& soapy water soak through to my thighs.
The butcher’s apron is prop. Soured cud
& matted hair leave on my shoes. Guys
like me are a dime a dozen
so I can’t complain: it’s work &
work is money. Lately I’ve been
doing doubles, since Luis got canned.
Work’s in our blood—in blood—you used to say.
My love to Chueco, Maria, José—
[Postcard of Acapulco cliff divers at sunset, in midair, postmarked Acapulco, Guerrero, 14 June 1997, addressed to Familia Hernández, Calle Sonora Grande, Ciudad de Satélite, Estado de México]
Weather’s great! Just over 30˚.
Yes, I drank too many young coconuts—
Adam warned me the milk would steep through my
weak intestines, released as fecal tea—
an image you might like. Our new friend cuts
their green skins off with his machete. Buy
one cold for one peso more & he’ll dig
it from the foam ice chest where they’re nestled
like coir-coated ostrich eggs or mini
bowling balls. At home they’re never this big.
This evening we saw a boy wrestle
a gull to the sand. He held its wings, free
to fly at arm’s length like a toy plane. Each
shoulder snapped. He blessed his meal, walked the beach.
The most democratic of mouth furniture, health benefits of the periodontal variety confirmed and only rumors of stomach splinters afflicting heavy chewers. What tiny woodsmith can hew a toothpick? What carpenter possesses the concentration required for the carving of a perfect wooden obelisk? What anorexic earthworm could dig a posthole small enough not to swallow it whole? A telephone pole in renewable birch, a fencepost for the sparrow’s nest, prehistoric diorama spear, punt-pusher in a shallow pint of milk. Friar Norbello decried, in perfect octosyllable, that the Wise Men from the East hadn’t brought the Christ-child toothpicks: even the pre-plaque from that holy mouth might one day make a relic. Eskimos would use a thin reed of baleen, a habit the whalers on Deception Island learned for lack of wood. In 1862 the first plastic toothpick was presented, by Alexander Parkes, at the Great International Exhibition in London. The Eames most famous fight was fought over the color of the toothpicks to be displayed upon their Case Study dining table (Ray: yellow; Charles: red.).
David Shook graduated in 2009 with an MSt in Creative Writing from Kellogg College, Oxford. He is a poet, translator, and editor.