Peter Jay Shippy



The durable natural history
of the desert island cartoon

with marooned sailor sand-sunk
against a single palm, drawn with

a questionable pencil moustache
is ataractic, pulling a Balanchine

act—an idiosyncratic paper
stencil. Long after the Ballantine

bottles fail to grow one damn ship
(skin to the wind! dust to the lute!)

and his collaged raft is trashed
by the museum’s janitor,

Popeye ascends his cay’s peaked
acme to find his lonely cell

is cavo-relievo—the peek-a-boo
part lies beneath the level

of the original plane—he can see
the sea resort and an old-timey

artist colony and he waves down
the Wright Flyer and is saved.



Rome wasn’t burned in a day
says the bird-eyed man.
And then he winks at me.
We’re waiting for our train.
His pinstripes are white
picket fences. Nice cover.
His comb-over rises plumb
to his bald head like
a morning hard-on like
the spike that means fib
on a truth-detecting sheet.
I nod, but think, hell, now
I’ll have to report him
to our secret police.
And after the rubber hoses,
cattle prods and bamboo
shoots under-the-nails
will come his quiet time
in a piss-yellow cell.
He’ll get some thinking done.
Did he mean built not burned?
Wouldn’t that be awful—
to lose your life for a slip
of your fat tongue? Oh, well.
Poor bastard. Already he
doesn’t breath the same air
as the rest of us. His eyes
are draining color like
worn cloth at the elbow.
His eyes will live on tears.


Reading: The Unsubscriber (FSG) by Bill Knott, Borrowed Love Poems (Penguin) by John Yau, The Strange Hours Travelers Keep (FSG) by August Kleinzahler and Sayonara, Gangsters (Vertical Books) by Genichiro Takahashi