SPOTLIGHT: Impractical Taxidermy by Chris Vola

Impractical Taxidermy

your mimosa breath stinks worse
than a slow damp murder
worse than the tipsy gardening enthusiast
in the outdoor seating area
telling the dehydrated hibiscus
she bought in a Whole Foods
that nine inches
is the perfect cozy domestic height
(basically looks good in every filter!)
worse than the
indistinguishable persona
of every follow-up email
sadder than an unviewed story
i.e. we’ve all seen that fucking French bulldog before
i.e. let’s talk unironically
about early 2000s New Orleans rap
convince the couple next to us
the absence of video chat
is the absence of sexuality
i.e. every stupid repetitive thing
but your thumb just weaves across the screen
buzzed & choosing GIFs of small mammals
like you want to build an impractical taxidermy app but
not get too famous from it
the old comfortable temptation
while I lick the salt rim because duh
possession is power
is falling into dry accommodation with the spilled voices
beyond heat lamps & muted basketball games
(does sharing school shooting memes
mean we’re intersectional feminists?)
(will you, dearest bae, permit one last slide
through the comments?)
these small methods of resistance
that prevent us from being consumed
the itch & scratch of skins rubbing
I should probably talk to you about all of this
(I never talk to anyone about anything!)
your eyes as downtrodden
as my media presence
scalloped fingernails waiting to flatten me
like last birthday’s Perrier-Jouët
against the darkening pavement
or maybe you’re just casting spells on Ashley’s
something or other
the wi-fi connection is lit after all
you just want to grab the check
I mean I get it
there has been a shift
the speaker-muffled drum breaks
signifying something personal
the inconspicuous playlist
becoming a historical reenactment
& not one that ends in a rah-rah victory salute
more like the sparkling nihilism
of your MS fundraiser
or if we’re being honest
the accidental FaceTime last spring
in Playa del Carmen
an eggshell-colored towel
stained AirBnB hardwood
Siri repeating “smothered aftertaste” in Spanish
floating on seas of old brutality
the shadow becoming distinct
but you don’t want me to say that
or name the sweat-ghouls
of three-day-weekends past
you want to maintain an unwholesome collaboration
your phone’s buzz
giving birth to cruel analysis
your glass raised to split the wound
ready to make the collapse feel
as obvious as a fundamentalist teenager
i.e. shitfaced on sadness
& I say nothing and zoom in
on the serpentine glint of your debit
& imagine a so-bad-it’s-good rom-com
but only flesh out
the final scene:
we exit left unscathed
another side-eye from
the improbably handsome busboy
waiting to clear our dregs
from the forest of the already dead
& talk shit about us to the hostess
in an eerily familiar equatorial dialect
& you stop
really stop
look & finally scale
the mountain of why everything happens
& touch
the hands
you love to touch

Everyone at Target is on CBD

a periphery
so rigid
in its
to sing

2001 – Present

Emma stood in the back of the student center, near the coat closet with its dull polyurethane hooks, hands clasped over her stick-jaw pelvis, eyes on the sky being projected through the TV. I thought about us in ten years: functions to attend, pills to swallow, clubs, nipple slips, & brunches. Probiotic baby food, His & Her bidets, nurses at four in the morning, IV needles. I pressed my face into the crook of her shoulder. She shoved me away. “My uncle was in bonds,” she sobbed. “Well, hopefully somebody freed him,” I said. Emma gave me this death-by-airstrike look. No one else laughed except for Carl, who kept laughing until the crossing guard dragged him off campus. That night, Emma waited in her bedroom, smoking & checking her inbox. Her mother had been on the phone since the lines opened back up. It’s still hard to believe that, even very recently, there have been Septembers where nothing happened.

Nocturnal Omissions

Little raccoon, rummaging the dumpsters
for crumpled yellow promises,
take the rest of my falafel instead.
This time, like every other time,
an initiation, which involves
two tiny fists clenched
in the glare of the phone’s light.
While night slides closer
to a shivering gray fact
& it’s only the two of us awake,
you decide to befriend me again
so I don’t acknowledge
the scalpel in my head, the thoughts
gasping & crooked like skinheads
pumping iron in an old churchyard,
a pair of wire-rimmed glasses
someone dropped on the sidewalk,
diabetic social workers begging
for chloroform at a yard sale,
that face we make when we know
a thing is fucked but just tell ourselves
another bland lie about the weather.

Morningside Heights

Laughing, we call a bodega beer
against your throat
a headstone’s promise.

A mutiny, the decaying causeway
of your back
erased of all hardness.

The rooftop, the river,
your hair,
my underbelly.


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