Alexander Chisum


the pleasures of arson

i light my cigarettes on poppies in
the arboretum. kids tick a storm’s quick-
ness in mississippis. any flicked bic’s
butane flower fidgets, asks for aspirin.

the fire teases me in badder latin :
w one or two candelas, let’s lipstick
this gobbledygook
. i wince, dyspeptic.
that roachish libido, adrenaline

hooch : i sip it, saber-toothéd, smooch it,
heart ballooning, gaskets gagging, toonish-
ly bologna. brother, it’s too boring

quitting smoking for my one & only
lung left. a mosquito bucks me, zooms, meth-
headed, west. may he be ever lonely.

on cutlery reflecting a candleflame

flowing west, & maybe ever lonely,
the lava sonnets in molten voltas.
charcoal’s organs radiate, molting
moths & goldfish, those watery yogis.

if a broken lantern hopes, then show me.
blow me, o addled candle, o oboist
in earrings of glassiest igneous,
volcano erupting in marrowy

blurts. serrated, all gussied up in black
forest cake, we knives blaze in ovation,
our chairs overturning cholesterol

quick. our fire need exits, more alcohol,
more airflow. the lava, tho, is patient,
& patience opens windows in us all.


if patience opens windows in a wall,
then wait. wait immediately, alex.
a pill detangles in stomach acid,
your fist relaxes. tender chemicals

make gentler animals, coladas moll-
ify the workaholic. an addict
calls it the colic : the tick-tock, tsk-tsk
insistence of the twenty-seven doll-

ars in your pocket. all-american,
what fuels the dust is dust’s own industri-
ousness. why count, alex, your calories?

a prayer’s not a ladder, it’s vice
versa. he is, he says, a person. he
dreams it. now look, he’s opening his eyes.

what fumes & bones

is this what now means? just open my eyes?
brother, your pupils are keyholes. lightning’s
the key
. & my brain? it’s the battery—
rev yer engine, gent
. a bon mot’s a sly

fuse of amusement. you electrified?
not yet. sun banged its cymbals, & every
champagne sprang : cats to dressers, miserly
(three), graffiti inklings (mine,

daily). a voltage of bluebirds uncorks
a blueberry bush, & the cockleburs
are? effervescence. what fumes & bones we

are & ride—to work, to buy groceries,
to buy the gas that gets us home from work—
always someplace, never wholly wholly.

Alexander Chisum

Alexander Chisum grew up in small town Nevada. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and, while there, spent time teaching poetry to men in medium- and maximum-security prisons. His poems have appeared in Nashville Review, Sycamore Review, Bestoned, Handsome, and others. He lives in Fairbanks, Alaska.