Peabody Street

Emily Parke , Editor

I walked past an old man smoking a pipe today. 

If you must know, the smoke was pungent and sour, 

And nothing like the dry bitterness of cigarette smoke. 


It was rather like cold piss in an alley. 


Speaking of piss, I’d be pissed to be his pipe. 

He suffocates the damn walnut stummel with a fat hand 

And lazily jams tobacco into the chamber with another – 

No pride in his vice, 

But plenty of vice in his pride. 


His wretched lips sucking dry at the stem of his pipe 

Produced the most god-awful slurping sound 

As if a dentist was tearing his loose gums right out of his mouth 

With one of those saliva-sucking instruments. 


Don’t pipes of every variety give you corn teeth anyways? 

Apply, Brandy, Cavalier, 

Zulu, Zulu, Zulu – 

Yellow, wet kernels fall out of gummy sockets 

Onto pink, swollen tongues. 


I used to have nightmares about rotten teeth springing out of my gums,


This man’s personal paradise must be this Peabody Street bench 

Where he stretches so gleefully his podgy arms 

And basks his grizzly-haired chest and ruddy cheeks 

In the healthy warm sun. 


I think this old man will live forever – 

I mean it. I just think he will never, ever die. 

He’ll never feel the aches and pains and soreness of being undiagnosed 

And the beeps and blips and hissing and heavy exhales 

Of rubber machines. 


Grandmom’s hospital bed in Delaware plays those awful sounds 

Over the intercom every day. Her lungs scoop up oxygen from cold tanks 

And hisses them out through flaring nostrils, 

Freckled scabbing lips. 


And in my sleep her sickness haunts me, 

My lower lip bulging out of my face, sore to the touch 

On top of the inflated flesh inside my mouth, shriveled and soft 

Brown teeth hanging on by slimy threads.