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James Cihlar

Sitting by a Fire with You, The Two of Us Planning the Future


Firmament Shutdown

Sitting by a Fire with You, The Two of Us Planning the Future

On the run, we must bend our faces close together in shelter,
the long, slow tease.

A planet of women who hunt in high heels and miniskirts,
where even the most basic functions

are sexual. Walking down a long hallway, operating a beta-disintegrator, 
the soldiers are flawlessly coiffed.

Getting through the day is like one long hand job.
It never gets old.

No one blinks twice at death threats followed by come-ons.
The queen wears a fanciful mask

to hide her radiation burns. Our future depends on Captain Patterson’s sex-
ual magnetism.

To work is beautiful. The scientist wears a silk lab coat in red
that matches her lipstick. To betray is beautiful.

Women cannot live without men. You’ve got that right, baby.
We’ll find a new way of being.

If we cannot change civilization, I thought we might start our own.
With you,

I will follow Zsa Zsa Gabor in a diaphanous chiffon gown
through the jungle

to hide in caverns veined with gold, planning our escape
in front of a sputtering campfire.

We have discovered the place where men are pretty and wo-
men are handsome.

The electronic televiewer is ready.
Earth, answer us.

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First her clothes     Black full-length dress slit up to the thigh     Green emerald jacket belted at the waist   Then the naked man in the locker room     Then the moue she pulls   when Ryan O’Neal asks if she could live with his body on her head     Summer of ’78    Jimmy Carter      Open space between junior and senior year      Varnish of sweat on skin     Chill in the air      Busboys at Spaghetti Works     The charge of asking him to a poetry reading    Exchanging poems    Interstitial     He said that was a word    Lunch at King Fong’s    Slurping his food   Wild hair against gaunt cheeks    Austere is a word that sounds like its meaning    Hadassah Bargain Box near his apartment on Dodge     Walking and arguing ideas     Coffee with cream sky above the incinerator on the north side of downtown    When we reached agreement I turned and walked away     My sister Rita took me to The Main Event      Westroads Cinema     Kathy Bohi in a chenille jacket in the lobby     The turn of her calf in Geometry    Barbra plays a bankrupt executive whose last asset is a washed up fighter    Her boyfriend told her she had a great ass    As the producer he featured it in many scenes     In interviews she said she never liked her looks although now knows she was beautiful in her thirties     Wearing a shorty bathrobe she vacuums her pink apartment     She smokes a cigarette like a man when she catches Kid Natural in a lie     She mispronounces Brent Musburger’s name and hijacks his sports show over the credits     Most audiences were annoyed     At the end her voice breaks free     Soaring synthesizers    Multiple key changes   A rise in octave   An impossibly long note     Engine of music   A machine cranked faster and faster    This was my future    Paul Jabara’s song winning an Oscar    Jimmy Carter in office     Harvey Milk elected in San Francisco    Sunsets at Elmwood Park     Home of Warren Buffet     Rita’s new Famolare shoes in the mud      Oaky wine     Heavy sediment      Muenster cheese from Hickory Farms   When I grow up I don’t want to be a stooge for daytime TV   Judge Judy outstretches her arms like Evita    Her Botoxed face is smooth      Beastly Expressions is a category on Jeopardy     A sell out     A company man    Today the sun was directly above the equator       The day was as long as the night     Jimmy Carter calls resistance to health care reform racism    This is what it looks like people     Your friends and neighbors     The pedophile in the cubicle down     Don’t insult our intelligence     Call it what it is     How to get out of this       When I graduated I shopped at the Goodwill for my future life     An iridescent saucer     A pink swan TV Lamp     Pearl Methodist folding chair   I packed it all in boxes and watched the CBS Late Movie     The Bandwagon    Fred Astaire dances in a penny arcade with another man     Designing Woman     Lauren Bacall bit Gregory Peck’s ear in a sublime expression of lust    Ingrid Bergman puts her arm around his shoulders in Spellbound    This is how I would hold a man    Barbra’s voice soars     A quarter of a century later I’ve got a basement full of bijou and porcelain    

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Firmament Shutdown

At 12:01 the governor announced the sky was closed for business.
He led us out of the cave and by a gesture of his hand
indicated the beginning of a night without stars.

Clouds docked at the horizon as quickly as a drop of oil
skids across the surface of a pot of water, the power of inertia.
With a thud, the rim of the bowl of heaven landed on the earth below.

The storied luminescence of our lakes has gone flat opaque.
And other untold consequences. Mirrors stopped reflecting.
The silhouettes of trees no longer fastened to the skyline.

Shadows moved desultorily, according to their whim,
pooling in the fragrant shallows before rushing to a point,
a planchette on a Ouiji board. Who are we to say they can’t procrastinate?

Like us, they have decided time is relative, not absolute.
With no sky pressing on our heads, will our feet disengage from dirt?
We hadn’t heard heaven’s revolving thrum until it stopped.

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James Cihlar is the author of the poetry book Undoing (Little Pear Press, 2008) and chapbook Metaphysical Bailout (Pudding House Press, 2010). His next book, Rancho Nostalgia, comes out from Dream House Press in 2013. His poems appear in American Poetry Review, The Awl, Cold Mountain Review, Court Green, Prairie Schooner, Mary, Rhino, Painted Bride Quarterly, Emprise Review, Verse Daily, Washington Square Review, and Forklift, Ohio. His work appears in the anthologies American Tensions: Literature of Identity and the Search for Social Justice (New Village, 2011), Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Writers on Faith, Religion, and Spirituality (Sibling Rivalry, 2011), and Divining Divas (Lethe, 2012). His reviews appear in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Western American Literature, Coldfront, and Gently Read Literature. He is the Book Reviews Editor for American Poetry Journal and the Fiction/Nonfiction Editor for Etruscan Press. The recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship for Poetry and a Glenna Luschei Award from Prairie Schooner, Cihlar is a Lecturer at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and a Visiting Professor at Macalester College in St. Paul.

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