The Poetry Project

Split Ends

Gregory Grube


tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the human body.
shame is not something we carry.
it multiplies in the recesses of our mouths.

—TC Tolbert

The words linger: “What were you doing in there?” “I know what those are.”
Tinseltown ghosts flyby like any messenger spreading visions of cucumbers
and gimlets, transfer from the enormous plastic thermos. Towels wrapped

around heads, terrycloth strewn all over the floor, disposable slippers sufficing for
wardrobe. Every bathtub I’ve ever seen is a test of faith. In truth, I’m just working

all the hours I can get, no clubhouses or tax havens to trade stories about. Down here,
we are always one letter away from ruin, the best of two judged by some bystander
so you might as well throw your legs up as a boy remembering how mommy

wouldn’t share her mattress with anyone. Now I’m the editor. We practice expression
but sometimes I am boring. The face is a circus when we unleash its acrobatics.

The rubble appears like a vacancy. Language is no horse for the thirteen forked creatures
I’ve resisted turning into. Auto-asphyxiation in a closet like a warning therefore never
visit Bangkok. I am laughing like a maniac: the joke’s about plight, dim memories

of being muffled and liking it. The highest form of beauty is crumbling and vegetative. I didn’t
see any shame in the museum but maybe I wasn’t looking. It was then, after I was kicked

out of the choir, that I took the three sheets and taught myself how to rappel down the mountain.
Denim’s double stitch, thick seams of nostalgia, that’s the look this morning. I’d rather listen to
Double Cross than Doctor Love even though both take me back to the same side street.

I could paint a tall ship sailing away on my bedroom wall, close the door and walk off
or turn pouch into verb, separating each chord from its gristle. There are daddies

in the security camera. Strands of hair abound, a garden of hands folded and cradling
their electronics. Ignoble gums the mirror divulges when I smile in a certain way.
My ending is a question of blemish, the plainest decay I am learning to reconcile.