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Margaret Bashaar

These are the small moments when you know you love

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When the legs that tremble are not mine,
when I have not spoken in days,
when the last taste on my tongue
is the sour of coffee

the mountain opens its mouth and I step in.

See, these are the tunnels
you must hold your breath through,
these the traffic signals that will always
make you lift your hands from the wheel,
tell you to make another wish.

You are where I go when I think I know myself,
to remind me I never can,
that there is always a new scar
to discover at the back of my thigh,
always a new lust to draw
like a needle down my back.

I am full of torn up stamens,
petals chewed to pulp.

I watch your hands grey as the days pass,
I see your hands in the fire.
They snatch the hummingbird from it.

I've rolled this sun,
these broken branch tips
into a ball to slip
beneath your mattress.
I will keep you awake at night,
coax out your royalty.

I know you want to be suspended in the air,
full of spells or something like them,
that you see a warm blanket as the first step
toward seduction, and a badly timed joke
as the second.

Maybe we all do the same things to each other -
cut our teeth on one another's scapula,
scrape at each other's signatures with a straight razor.

Swing your legs over the edge with me and you will feel the planet
as it tries to shrug you off,
the whiplash of elliptical orbit.

Eulogy for the Burned God of the Pickle Barrel Diner

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He's an old name to some,
the whites of his shrine long yellowed,
his name a gurgled late-night whisper by men
who smell of Pabst and smoke,
bodies translucent.

He was a rest-stop
for 8am suburban high school escapees,
tumbling off the T into the mystery
of the South Side's quieter hours.
He knew how the trash looked different
in the morning than the afternoon,
how the rivers smell
when the light first hits them,
breathed into each coffee carafe,
this is my blood, shed for you.
Do this. Do this.

And when he burned he did it good, baby.
Set fire to all the grease he had,
turned the sugar packets to napalm.
Did it twice for good measure.
And his worshippers,
they blocked off Carson Street
for four blocks, they evacuated 100 people.

Some gods don't even make it 45 years,
firecracker pops that ring in your ears
but don't leave more behind than a bright flash,
dazed children in their wake.
And who knows why he burned?
And in the end, does it matter
if it was faulty wires,
a grill left on overnight, arson,
a flicked cigarette?

Now, it seems like everyone
has pressed their mouths to him once,
everyone has let him touch them,
harden their arteries by inches.
And though they are drawn to different gods now,
ones with names like Tom's and Ritters,
still they hear the whisper behind their ear,
do this for the remembrance of me.

How to Give a Reading in Washrooms

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When you give a reading in a washroom, it is best to go dumpster diving first. You will need the following: A pair of chucks that are too large, a middle school sports team t-shirt, and one holiday sweater with shoulder pads.

If you are a man, read in the women's washroom. If you are a woman, still read in the women's washroom. It does not matter why I am telling you to do this. Like the laws of physics or magic, it can be done no other way.

Face the wall. This is very important. Your audience will know you by the place where your hair meets the nape of your neck, so what need do they have of seeing your face? Your fly will be unzipped the whole time anyway.

No one is allowed to hear you. I know that this will be difficult - washrooms are not very large - but please, speak only when someone is pissing, flushing, washing their hands, when they are pumping the handle of the paper towel dispenser.

If anyone asks why you are giving a poetry reading in a washroom, do not respond with words. You have only two options in the end; make an indecipherable noise or hump their leg at the hip. You may not do both. A choice must be made.

Do not converse with anyone, in fact. When you have read for approximately twenty-three minutes, locate the washroom window. Break the glass with your fist. Slide out head first, let the shards slice at your belly.

As your body tips toward the earth kick off your chucks and let them drop to the washroom floor. Do not resist the tug of an object with more mass than yourself. Ignore the clench in your stomach. Let your jaw crack against the ground.

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