The heirs to Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds,
the meth heads learning meditation,
the twenty-year-old teddy-bear bro sneaking steroids,
and that tool from Laguna Beach and Celebrity Rehab—
they nicknamed you “Dictionary,” “Genius,”
said little to your face. I called you out for bullshit,
kept you in my phone. Months after your release,
you asked me over, were skunk-rank, under whiskey,
and wine-heavy with a smile, said Alcohol never was my problem.
On a wooden hanger, the baby-blue button-up you loaned me.
Silk. Clean under the arms. Starched, outdated collar, color, cut.
I refold it every year when clearing out my closet for donations
and for keeps. Your small brown stain in the crook of the sleeve,
no wider than a dime, no weightier. A rind of China White,
a needle and a belt. A shower losing heat. Your stilled fountain
of vomit dried on the linoleum. How many days passed?
How many drops of water washed the skin off your face
before anybody came?
You became a crowned red stag that gallops across the stage
to Saint-Saën’s “Organ Symphony.” You dance your hooves
off the lower lip of a pipe. The house is full, and you can hear
their humming. Maestro raises his wand; C Minor releases
in Alpine clouds over the audience’s faces. Thundersnow
descends centerstage, sparkling in the heat. The string section
is batwings as every vibrato confesses its own blindness.
You look for light, antlers gold-plated ivory. Can you see?
Down here, what you look like, how we scream.
Zach Linge’s publications include poems recently or forthcoming in such journals as Poetry, New England Review, Puerto del Sol, and The Adroit Journal, and a refereed article in a special issue of African American Review on Percival Everett. Linge is the recipient of a scholarship to the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, is an Adroit 2020 Djanikian Finalist, and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Southeast Review.