Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

john paul davis


"animals"

 

I know what you're thinking
in a person's skull there's not enough
room for two rabbits to roost

but there are two in mine
anyway I can feel them both
soft bodies fluttering

like fast creaky bellows
& I know the distinctiveness
of each rabbit voice

one a low static like the crackle
of freshly-stolen thunder
the other thin as a rain

of shattering glass.
Don't bother asking
which belongs to my rabbit

& which to yours
who has come to live
in me, you must have suspected

the second rabbit is yours
you must have felt it wriggle
out of you & into me first

time we kissed
they wrap around each other
& yours whispers to me

when I am lonesome
& I can feel it tremble
when you are frightened

this is how I find
you so easily in a large
crowd, this is how I know

when you are thirsty
I wonder sometimes if you
also carry two

in your head
& are they also rabbits
or some animal suited

to your needs maybe eagles
for instance wouldn't it be amazing
if I'd had an eagle in me

this entire time & hadn't known
until you & I'm curious if any other
couples know this exchange

or are we the first
which if we were that'd make us
a new nation

& the language
our descendants speak
will have a word which translates

literally as the trading
of animals which will be their word
for love & their romantic epistles

will say things like I'm your ark
I'm your zookeeper
darling I'm your menagerie

I feel like you know my rat
terrier better than I do please
marry me I promise to cherish

& protect your hoopoe
beloved we are perfect
for each other, you are a soft

cool place to lie in a pile
& I am a sturdy perch my throat
is filled with berries & birdseed.
 


"Gender"


My gender is a 4-inch beard oiled
          with argen, rosemary & cloves

          my gender is a plum quilted overcoat
in winter & a pastel pink straw hat
                     in summer

          my gender is drawing flowers & valentines
during meetings at work, writing my beloved's name
                     over & over

          my gender cooks dinner for both of us & washes
                    the dishes after, humming

My gender is brick after brick
                     on the basketball court in gym
          class & my gender is forgetting
                               the dumb rules of football
          my gender has to internet search who won
                     the Super Bowl

          my gender is getting called fag
                               by the other straight boys
                    between the classroom trailers by the tennis
courts while they wail on me because my gender
          wore purple pants & a flowing capelike
                               coat & sometimes
                                          nail polish & barrettes

My gender was anointed with oil
                    by the pastor speaking in tongues
           to stop the sin of masturbation
                      when I was fourteen
                                 my gender was a stubborn sinner
thinking about the the goth girl who wrote poetry
                      in my algebra class
                                her black lipstick
           & the static in her voice

My gender sometimes wants to wear a dress
           hiked up to the knees
                       & crawl to my beloved
           all fours with smudged
                                   eyeliner & let her pet
                       my good boy head

           my gender also wants to take
           her gently by the throat
sometimes & speak only in commands

My gender tries each new grueling
           exercise Taylor invents
                     tries to outdo him
           pushes down the aching
                                glorying in my own sweat

My gender sings along
          to Indigo Girls, Deftones, Tom Petty & Beyonce
                     loudly, off-key, uncaring, crying

My gender hated in 1987 to miss any episodes of
                     Star Trek The Next Generation
           or Anne of Green Gables

           my gender read all the Philip K Dick
                     by age 16 & also stole the Harlequin
novels my grandmother bought & read
                               those in secret

My gender is the moon & a trembling rabbit,
                     a tree in wind & the suspension cables
           of the Brooklyn Bridge. My gender leans
against the bedroom wall like my bicycle
                     panting as it does after our long
           rides up the Hudson
                                & my gender glimmers
                      like the cooking knives
           waiting in my kitchen to slice
                      plus also my gender
is dogeared as the collected Anne Sexton
                                languishing on my bookshelf

My gender kisses my fiancée harder
           to get as much red
                      on my mouth as possible
           wears it proudly
                                 looks in every reflective
                      surface, grinning

My gender is on fire
           my gender a circle of fifths
                      my gender the boiling water hitting the coffee
                                 anxious about when she'll text
           dancing eyes closed              my gender writing its private name
                                 with an index finger             in the mirror
                                            in steam
 


John Paul Davis is a poet, musician and programmer. His work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Four Way Review, RATTLE, MUZZLE, The Journal, Bennington Review, and Again I Wait For This To Pull Apart. His first collection of poetry, Crown Prince Of Rabbits, was published by Great Weather For Media in 2016. You can find out more about him at www.johnpauldavis.org.