Pockets Full of Salt, Pepper, Mustard and Ketchup

Three poems by Peter Jay Shippy

Pockets Full of Salt, Pepper, Mustard and Ketchup

How Doth the Little Crocodile

Moonlight scooches over the kitchen floor, a white tongue, panting, licking, shedding its skin, looking for a corner, a place to hide and puddle.

Something in the refrigerator begins to shiver. Is it the brown eggs? The ice cubes?

My bowl of die?

There, there, I say to the moonlight as I stroke it with a wire whisk. There, there.

“Guests might find that Carrington had crept into their room at night, cut off a chunk of their hair, and served it up to them in an omelet the next morning.”

Each morning, another key.

I find them on the table, hanging from a nail. What do they open?

Bronze, brown, blackened, brass, cast iron, briny.

They look like skeletons, fossils, needle-nosed fish.

I find them in my slippers and under my pillow.

I suck them and put them in my ears, my nostrils, my bellybutton.

They taste like marrow.
What do they lock?

I fill my mouth with my keys to keep them, to keep my keys away from you.

20 Days with Julian & Little Bunny by Papa

Little Bunny speaks with people across many years.

At the suggestion of an inquisitor, Little Bunny twists Julian’s tits. They lick tongues. They lock whatnots.

Perhaps I should see the school doctor about this?

Julian keeps his hair as long as a cow’s tail, so he can flick away the black flies.

On a hike in the forest, we discover a trail of breadcrumbs. Julian picks them up with his tongue. We’re in league with the wolf, Little Bunny explains.

When Little Bunny walks barefoot, she holds her breath.

Julian pinks up at the sight of an abandoned piano. He collects their keys so he can reintroduce them to the ocean.

The rain makes me mistake Monday for Sunday, March for August.

Julian eats cauliflower for fear of being turned into cauliflower.

Little Bunny’s song requires an open window and a blade of ash. She will use her song to scratch her name in the air.

Little Bunny and Julian apologize for no dinosaur for dinner.

I order delivery.

When Little Bunny walks barefoot, over the hot sands, holding her breath, the water shivers.

Julian takes me to the movies, instead of school. We fill our pockets with packets of salt, pepper, mustard and ketchup.
We like previews. We eat California rolls.

Little Bunny uses a blue marker to color-in the wrinkles around her eyes. All rivers flow into her irises.

I write with a pencil, so I can erase, so I can turn the words into

Pink curls.

Julian: When I was a boy my grandfather refused to take me hunting because I talked too much. What did I say? My dancing days are kaput! What did my voice sound like? White swallows. White swallows.

I intercepted a call from my proper authorities and recited, poorly, a small poem by Rimbaud, in French. They hung-up.

Little Bunny: Tes crocs luisent.

Why did you name me papa, I never ask.

A September Gospel

My ribs are sardines.

They beg me to turn the key.

But when I do, I shiver. Or is that dancing?

The fish are not pleased.

It reminds them of their death, below decks, above the sea, covered in salt, rocking, singing their sardine songs as the fishermen cleaned their blades with red ale.

I grab the freezer door to steady myself and it opens. I stick my head inside. What a world! Swedish meatballs, peas, vodka, pearl onions, samosas, ice cream and a cow’s heart.

The light bulb is a white dwarf, humming, radiating, dreaming of its future as a black dwarf.

My chest pulses. The fins sense water. They want to dive into the vanilla lava, swim to the ocean in the center of the earth and transform into a swarm of Eves.

Later, outside, I sit on my stoop, sipping hot vodka and onions.

A clutter of uniformed school children pass.

Each one of those angels will tease the skinned rabbits in the butcher shop window, I know.

I scratch my neck and there it is, the key. Caught in my throat.
I loose a gulp of booze and whisper to my ribs:

vivat, don’t swoon
I’m greasing
the track, soon
we’ll all be free.

Five Poems, by Jeff Whitney

Peter Jay Shippy is the author of 4 books. The most recent is A spell of songs (Saturnalia Books). About that book, John Yau wrote, “One day, not long ago, Meret Oppenheim walked past Edward Hopper in Paris, and an electric current passed between, and from that current was born Peter Jay Shippy….” Twice his work has appeared in The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at Emerson College.

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