Solving For X 

Solving For X 

                                                          I slipped a disc 
                                                                                 mistaking its curved 
                                                                      edge for a nickel 
                                                                      one I needed for a gumball machine 
            possibly containing encapsulated slips of paper 
            on which were written taunts about my manhood 
                                               collectively comprising a wisdom book 
                         much like one I found hand-painted on a Mayan codex 
                                                                      only smaller 
a disc threaded on  
            a strand 
                       of the beaded curtain 
                                   that a hookah gangster 
                                               with resin on his fingers 
                                               and pockmarks on his half-mask 
parted in a gin parlor  
                        in which sat a prostitute 
                                   whose concupiscence smelled like apricot jam 
                                                                                  the fancy kind in a slim jar 
                                                          she said every man has mommy issues 
                                   it’s just a matter of degree 
                                                          and as we coupled 
                                                                                I wept in her arms like a child

                        a heap of quarters no longer rattles  
                                               in the cup holder of my car 
                                               shaking like the bones  
                                               of my regret 
at having loved the wrong girl 
at the right time  
or vice versa 
                                   if I became a great lover, it’s because I had no idea 
            what I was doing and so took my cues from kinesiology 
                        the eschatological science wherein hygiene and rot 
                                                          battle for primacy 
                                                                      like sumo wrestlers 
                                                                                 gone lean after gastric bypass 
                                               they wrestle by instinct and habit 
                                               but their hearts are no longer in it 
                                                          the fat has been subtracted 
thus vanishes the collective  
                                   coital dissatisfaction of our age in which 
                                   smells like a fresh coast of shellac  
                                                          and divinity smells like bleach 
roll the phrases fuckalicious and junk bonds  
in their mouths  
                                               like a jawbreaker 
                                               deliciously sour  
                                               but with the texture  
            of the world’s smallest meteorite 
            one created as a prank 
never meant to be consumed 

like sex it threatens to break your teeth 
                       all the while promising pleasure 

                                                                                  an erotic poem 
                                                                                  is one containing 
                                                                                  all the letters of 
                                                                                  the alphabet 
when I compare the steel orbs  
                                   and flippers of  
                       to a constellation  
                                   of supernovas  
                                   and dying stars  
                                                                      I’m just saying that all the poets in
                                                                     were simply observing the obvious 
                        when they looked up the skirt 
                        of the dark lady 
                                                          only to find a luminous orb 
                                                          filled with the same sacred liquid 
that skaters adore 
in glow sticks at the roller rink 
                       ergo the infatuation with extrapolating 
                       love from female anatomy 
                                                                                              rather than the reverse 
my girlfriend called me a sex machine and only later did I realize 
                       she didn’t mean it 
            as a compliment rather she implied the machine in the garden 
                                                          which makes perfect sense 
                                                          and is in fact a compliment 
                                                          but only if taken literally 
                                                                                              that is to say 
                       as the basis for a metaphor 

when I count to three  
I expect  
all of my selves 
to stand up  
            and cry out the obvious axiom that x means ecstasy 
                       whereas XXX despite popular opinion means 
                                                                                                         the unknown 
                                                                                             a sequence of variables 
                                                                                  without an answer 
                                   therefore seductive and irresistible 
                                   did I sweat from performance anxiety 
                                   or was that only the aroma of 
                        a box of expired frankincense  
                        which you can now 
                                               buy online 
                                               and ship direct  
                                   to its destination 
                                                          cutting out the middleman who despite 
his tardy neurosis has the gall to ask for a tip 
                                                                                  I love her 
I mean my 14th girlfriend 
                                   because she constantly reminded me 
                                   while I performed cunnilingus |
on her relatively  
                       decorous snatch 
that love is only  
                       an equation 
in which each  
                       adds up 
                                                                      to a sum  
                                                           as yet to be determined 
ergo she suggested I forgive
                                                           my adulterous father  
                       for all his transgressions just as 
                                                                                  I would need to be  
                       further down the line 
                                   solve for x 
                                               when x means vacancy

            I’m not sure when 
            it became fashionable 
            to destroy your marriage 
            because I’m always the last to know 
I’m a chip  
                                               off the old block 
                                                                                             when block is understood 
as a super-hardened  
                                               and synthetic 
                                                                                             form of granite that can 
only be damaged 
                                              by the wrong-headed  
                                                                                             telepathic impulses 
of a slut-bucket prophet 
                                              or his surrogates 
                                                                                             because let’s face it  
everything is outsourced 
                                              these days even pagan shtick  
of those pop romance songs  
                                              that rhyme  
                                                                                             self with shelf 
not due  
                                              to low morals 
                                                                                             or paucity of imagination 
but in order  
                                              to avoid  
                                                                                             feminine rhymes

Whupass Roundelay 

The archer has no wax for his twine 
the musician no string for the mandolin 
and the standup comedian 
who rehearsed to make jokes  
about the fact that he’s Asian 
now suffers from aphasia. 

Pass, pass the can of whupass. 

The gecko holds fire in its limbs 
like a beautician in a Cross-fit gym 
but the runner who trained 
and laced up Adidas 
to outrun the speeding drone 
found in her shoe a stone. 

Pass, pass the can of whupass. 

An Uber driver’s cherubic 
as he dreams of creamed chicken in aspic 
but his customers, spastic 
track his route on their phones 
and magnolia trees flower 
by the second, the minute, the hour. 

Pass, pass the can of whupass. 

In every bar across America 
a fight will break out at midnight 
while the bartender reads the Baghavad-Gita 
wherein bowmen fight for the Dharma Yudha. 
Protected by Bhima, emboldened by Zima 
they’ll strive for the souls of the senseless. 

Pass, pass the can of whupass. 

While I was curating my selfies 
an angel came to witness my bliss 
and we exchanged the sign of the cross 
between us, as one who knows 
he is insubstantial but doesn’t care 
and he smoothed a knot in my hair. 

Pass, pass the can of whupass. 

Sleep softly, there are no signs and wonders 
no blood, nor billows of smoke and fire 
only a forty per cent chance of doom. 
So dance, dance a mazurka 
while moonlight falls on the tall valet 
who shoe-taps the beat of the roundelay. 

Pass, pass the can of whupass. 

Johnny Payne’s work has recently appeared in Neon Door, Gasher Journal, Sparks of Calliope, Society for Classical Poets, The Chained Muse, and Soundings East. His most recent published novels are THE HARD SIDE OF THE RIVER and CONFESSIONS OF A GENTLEMAN KILLER, which won the IBPA Gold Medal for Horror in2021.  His books of poetry VASSAL and HEAVEN OF ASHES were published by Mouthfeel Press. He has directed his plays DEATH BY ZEPHYR and CANNIBALS for Slingshot Players, Los Angeles. 

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