40 YEARS OF CUTBANK: "I Am a Cymbalist" by Thea Brown

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From CutBank 77



I am decoupaged in trillium petals though patterns of four for the sake of divination. I get my job done, categorizing tissue samples. Filing, really. Tedious, Times Square in the 70s. I smell like meat all the time. Dogs follow in sorry spectacle. Invite them in and tell them the future, you say. I keep losing my mouth, but rhyming from win- dows, a cluttered emulsion of cloudspace and leaf litter. We keep the water heater off, crumble only outward. A sequence is spreading, a diamond light. Spin me a pretty story and I’ll pour you the strongest daiquiri we make around here.


Sometimes by tissue samples I mean biopsied tumors, sometimes ex- tremities. I keep on the TV while sorting, tell everyone I never get hungry at work though that’s not true. Sometimes I’ll make myself a BLT but I always make an effort to eat quickly. The windows glow with a light that can’t be from outdoors. It scuttles around the panes. I work by it.


In the museum I watch the whale and how its deadness slowly over- takes the blue space as evening limps forward, swells, closing ap- proaching. Cavernous as enclosure. Cavernous as sealed in incan- descent nightdark. Cavernous as carnivorous, hungry to distraction. Once I hid with the impalas. Their hides gave off comfortable musty dust, but you found me and coaxed me out. Is this boring you? The puffins the next wing over all shuddered their beaks against the glass in solidarity.


Every day we burn our collected garbage and go to sleep. The aquarium heat lamp flicks on and off. The lionfish treads in a corner. We named him, but misremember the happening. A cracked spell to movement, a frame. Outside, the citizenry trumpets its success, new saplings along the boulevard. We admire them. And the municipal confetti streams like clockwork.


Originally from the Hudson Valley in New York, Thea Brown is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop who now lives in Washington, DC. Recent publications include poems the The Collagist, jubliat, Poetry Northwest, LVNG, Barrow Street, and elsewhere, as well as a chapbook called We Are Fantastic from Petri Press.