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Rich Boucher

Fifty Cents

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If you have some extra change
when you're done at the supermarket,
fifty cents will give you a minute to try and pick a good baby
out of the bright red and pink claw machine
situated between the video rental box and the change maker.

Inside the glass of the claw machine,
there's a huge pile of fresh, clean and naked babies;
it's a cacophony of crying and laughing,
gurgling and spitting up and cooing and burbling
in every shade of brown and pink;
a music box of warbling and wriggling and goo-goo'ing.

Pop two quarters into the credit slot
and grab the little joystick;
don't let that "pop goes the weasel" song
and all the flashing lights distract you;
maneuver the three-fingered claw
over the neck of the baby that you want;
watch the fingers clasp around the baby's neck;
hoist the baby up and try to beat the clock
as you inspect that dangling baby,
as that baby looks you in the eyes.
If you do not like this baby,
jiggle the joystick to make the baby fall back down
onto the pile of all the other babies
and start over quickly, before the time runs out;
look for a better baby in the pile.
If you get a good baby and the claw gets a good grip,
use the joystick to pull it over the hole
situated at the right, near corner of the console
and then release it; the baby will drop down
through a chute and into the hatch on the front of the machine
where you can collect it.

If it turns out that none of the babies look appealing to you,
just make the claw drop the baby and be on your way.
After all, you'll only be out fifty cents.
Just don't look back at the baby
pressing her hands to the glass
and watching you leave.

If We Get Disconnected

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The cataclysm will come, and the hospitals and skyscrapers will lose their balance
and stumble, stone giants lethally crumbling over all of us as we run;
we'll be running and then we'll stop running and then we'll run some more
and the sky will go from light blue to a rough, charcoal black in seconds;

we all will yell and scream as the telephone poles become electric slingshots
and a rainstorm of broken glass shatters us from all sides, all hands on deck
and the sick, orange sky will seem to come loose from its moorings unseen
and dance like a drunk on a very dizzy kitchen floor;

we will run in all directions looking for structures standing still enough
for us to stand beneath as all the main streets and entire front yards and highways
fly up into the rosy air like they forgot about gravity and their role as the ground,
and the world starts to feel like a giant supermarket and we are lost and where is our mommy?

Every time we get close to a carport or garage or a house with its front door open,
a piece of airliner or a swimming pool or half of a transit bus crashes down
onto what we were hoping would be safety under a sky turning hurricane green,
and we have to stop on a melting dime and run faster than our screams;

one of us will remain human enough to stop and pick up the screaming baby
that will be sitting in the middle of the blood-soaked road and crying for help;
hopefully, one of us will remain human enough to do that, to help that child
as the Sun suddenly grows so massive that it becomes the sky itself;

I will probably try to call you first to find out where you are
and then tell you that if we get disconnected I love you;

we'd best prepare for that time now; we'd better start honestly practicing
the art of running and crying and praying all at once, one shoe on, one shoe off;
we'd better get good at dialing emergency contacts while upside-down
and we'd better decide right now what sound or bell will tell us in no uncertain terms
here it comes; here comes the cataclysm; here it comes.

Miracle in the Food Court

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Suppose you could levitate a woman into the air
somewhere clear and safe, someplace America enough
to be in the middle of a crowded Indiana food court
at some shopping mall in some trusted where,
somewhere in the middle of some insured and American America
nestled deep in some kind of Indiana somewhere in some food court;
suppose you could do it, suppose you could lift her up in the air
perhaps twenty feet or around so, just by using only your intentions only
and disrobe her then, slowly disrobing her
article of clothing by article of clothing,
using only the powers of your mind
as you appear to everyone outside of you
as simply that person studying that map of the mall
at the outer frontier of the food court:
first will go her independent, chunky black shoes,
and then her well-worn, pale blue jeans
that hugged her form so damned well
and then her white, not guilty ruffly socks,
and then her black sweater that's interfered too long,
and then her dark red bra of all her august, glistening sins,
and then her dark red panties that pulse like butterfly wings;
suppose you could do this evil
and be this devious, dismantling her modesty;
let's suppose you could do this
as all the eaters in the food court watch,
letting their drinking straws fall out of their lips,
as all the clocks stop what they are doing, in shock;
let's suppose you could hold her up
ten feet or fifteen maybe in the air
and expose her body until she is up there on an invisible cross,
surround by a hundred unwilling disciples,
a hundred Judases with Orange Julius drinks in their hands;
let's suppose you really could do all of this,
would you find yourself worrying that people will see them,
the invisible and obvious pearls in your eyes,
that they will see that you are the one with the blue guilt in your veins,
that you are the one with the bad, bad telekinesis,
that you are the one raising her?

Why do you worry so much
over things you cannot control?

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