Two Poems

J.P. King

Slowly and Backwards

Front Yard
Ruby, you’re going to make me
use my own voice to embarrass myself.

Our house is only assembled
from photocopied bricks.

You call us “Beasts of Complex Malfunction.”
I don’t exactly know what that means,
but because you studied Sociology I’ll trust you.

Imagine a cup,
its contents suspended

from its true contract with gravity.
Now, imagine no cup, or an invisible cup

undetected by your eyes,
so that seemingly
the contract is broken.

Imagine my feet in your dress
and us both in a ham lifeboat.

A light wind in my eyes is making me cry.
It’s coming from an electric fan.

Ruby, you are a piece of furniture,
as was my mother.

Look out the window. I sculpted
you an iceberg with crackers and spit.

I borrowed your name the second time I was arrested.
I’m walking home slowly and backwards.


I hear that Ilona and Juris Grinsberg are having a party.
Their baby was born alive, and has been fed a spoonful of earth
and a tot of whiskey to ward off bad spirits.

I find my best suit, suspenders, five-button four-pocket overcoat,
porkpie hat, and head to the shed out back.

I take the tarp off
the wheelbarrow
filled with teeth
and set off toward the Grinsbergs.

I ring the doorbell. I wait,
then enter the house alone.
I wheel a line of dampness
across their silk carpet.

It turns out to be a garden party.
The Grinsbergs have imported an authentic iceberg,
drilled holes for bottles of champagne.

I kick my feet into the holes and climb to the peak,
pop a cork to the wind
and begin my oration:

Hello party guests!
It has come to my attention that you all have teeth,
something dear to the heart, near to the brain,
worth much care and attention.
I can imagine that you wouldn’t want anything
bad to happen to your fine ivories.
But I tell you that right now
your teeth are rotting in your face.
You feel for your lips,
what can you do?
Well, I have here singles and sets,
incisors & molars & cuspids.
It might feel awkward at first,
but these temporary teeth,
secured with high-grade honey,
will shelter your true teeth while eating.
The prices posted on the wheelbarrow
vary based on size, condition, and colour.

I took a deep breath while the guests cheered
and I began collecting their pennies.
Then I joined them in eating and dialogue.

The Architect.
“What sharp angles and edges, all the better for biting.”
“Yes, and yes it’s true.”

The Banker.
“An equitable loan may help your business prosper.”
“My profits are humble, as are my needs.”

The Chimneysweep.
“How white!”
“Yes, their owner never smoked.”

The Developer.
“Half the world is starving and you rent teeth?”
“You think they’d be interested?”

The Elderly, Foldaway, Geriatric.
“Gold!” He exclaims.
“Fools,” I say.

The Illustrator leaps up the iceberg
in the same fashion I had done earlier.

Leopold! Grinsbergs! Together you have
given me objects with such glaring similarities
that I cannot help but dedicate my artistic investigations
to all that is shared between icebergs and teeth.

J.P. King is the author of We Will Be Fish, a book of poems out now from PistolPress.