Oil Can; Self-Portrait as an AK-47; September 11, 2008
Various necklaces found or thrown in a recycling bin,
the garbage disposal, the community dump:
what most people remember.
The word “oil” pronounced like oww, a shriek.
I think about my mother forgetting how to drive,
my father coaching her on the phone:
Tell her about the dog you saw on the walk
Tell her about the rain
Tell her about losing your keys on the walk
Behind the curtain, he whispers, “You can
send her a sweater. You can send her candy.”
I misplaced my courage, my temper.
Old green velvet, stained, the nap stiff.
Christmas lights and vacuum tubes found or lost:
what most people are.
(Maybe an eye missing
or an eye for a thimble.)
An absent front tooth.
Ten years ago she mailed me all her rings;
she thought she was dying.
She called and the messages said,
Silver or gold, do you …like, which one.
The phone is a creature I regret touching.
I imagine myself inside a hard drive
or as a machine, steam powered with shuddering red coal --
maybe missing a button.
Self-Portrait as an AK-47
A trumpet. The crunch of an animal chewing through
my father’s plastic bag. I ask the squirrels about the rain
while they skitter left. Right. A piano, a snare drum. A canvas
the size of a small car. My mouth is the mouth of an animal.
My father’s cards mark the infected. Urine, a daffodil. In this
painting, I am a doll with one arm pointing. Click of the furnace,
a subtle roar. The emerging ears of a blue bear. My father’s five
orange pills: what I swallow each morning. My father’s porcupine
noses my wet oatmeal. Brushes undoing, redoing. The ears emerge
from my skull. My hair is my father’s, yellow. In this painting, one
eye is blacked out. I am under my father’s clouds and pink, dripping.
Bubble-gum ice cream, sloshing on my flip-flops. Cold and soft. A sun
hammering. My father’s gummy bits, red circles. I am blue, pointing.
A trumpet, a cello. The bellies of the squirrels hanging in the branches
outside my window, white, my father’s. I am unable to find my indoor
voice. My throat filled with my father’s petals/pills. Brass horns and a woman
singing. I am dimensionless, outlined in black. Next to me float black curls,
grenades. My father’s trumpet, a black mouth. A warning in the strangely
colored clouds. I don’t look at you. I look away.
Piano, then horn. The sky an unreal blue.
September 11, 2008
(After Damien Hirst)
Ribcages bristling with butterflies.
A windowless white room.
A two-story hand bears plastic
flowers that cannot find a home.
A flatbed drives the hand down
avenues, looking for a lawn
to fall in love with or a basketball
court, or a small, man-made lake.
Wind rattles a sign loose. How
can everything be so ordinary?
Two Toyotas yell at each other in the street.
A skull covered with diamonds,
swaddled and swaddled with bubble
wrap. A receptionist misspells
the country, reverses the shipping
information, the last name of the man.
How you flashed as you fell, how others
took pictures or looked away.
Christine Hamm lives and teaches in New Jersey. She recently edited an anthology of creative works inspired by Sylvia Plath and she has been published in Denver Quarterly, Nat Brut, Painted Bride Quarterly and many others. She has published six chapbooks, and several books -- her fourth, Girl into Fox, came out in 2019.