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Jeffrey McDaniel

Renovating The Womb

Dear Mom, thanks for giving birth to me
and not having an abortion.2% of my time
on Earth has been spent inside your body-
more than all my girlfriends combined.

I enjoyed my time in the uterus, reading
what the previous fetuses had written
on your walls. That's how I learned
to spell. That's how I came out speaking.

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Objectivity

There is a mob in the backyard,
protesting my nightmare.

They wear t-shirts bearing the image,
of the man who wants me dead.

They chant the same 'Down With Jeff! ' slogan
so forcefully I swear it has a shadow.

What have I done to deserve this?

I pick up a sign and move among them,
like a kind of silence murderers return to.

I join the chant against me,
and for the first time I feel a sense of belonging.

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The Obvious

We didn't deny the obvious
but we didn't entirely accept it either

We said hello to it each morning in the foyer
we patted its little head as it made a mess in the backyard
but we never nurtured it.

Many nights the obvious showed up at our bedroom door in its pajamas
unable to sleep, in need of a hug

and we just stared at it like an Armenian
or even worse hid beneath the covers
and pretended not to hear its tiny sobs.

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Where Babies Come From

For my eighth birthday
I got a toy train set
my father helped assemble.

My job was to hand him
pieces of track and re-light
the cigarettes that went out

in his mouth. Halfway
through, I asked him
where babies come from.

He told me that eight years
ago today I showed up
on the front stoop

in a cardboard box, how
he spent the whole afternoon
putting me together,

[...] Read more

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Mannequin Complex

During my formative years,
my mother had this annoying habit
of taking me into shoe stores
and forgetting all about me.

She'd try on heels and pumps,
sandals and beige leather boots,
winking at herself in the mirror,
like she was Cinderella.

I'd crawl into the stockroom
behind the stacks of boxes,
until the last employee clicked
off the lights and headed home.

Then I'd emerge, place a shoe horn
in the palm of my favorite mannequin,
and sleep at her feet gleefully
because she was my flesh and blood.

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1977

The family around the table and a silence
so compact no words can break it.

Not even a pigeon swirling through the window
can nudge mother's poorly taped grin.

Her face has the euphoric glow of a mathematician
whispering a formula into the whorl of a rose.

Her eyes are tiny stones testing the black
silk bags she lugs them in.

Since father banned television the sons stare
at the marriage dangling from the ceiling.

Each month it sinks another couple inches
until it's in their food.
No wonder they don't eat.

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The Secret

When you were sleeping on the sofa
I put my ear to your ear and listened
to the echo of your dreams.

That is the ocean I want to dive in,
merge with the bright fish,
plankton and pirate ships.

I walk up to people on the street that kind of look like you
and ask them the questions I would ask you.

Can we sit on a rooftop and watch stars dissolve into smoke
rising from a chimney?
Can I swing like Tarzan in the jungle of your breathing?

I don't wish I was in your arms,
I just wish I was peddling a bicycle
toward your arms.

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Hunting For Cherubs

If you heard your lover scream in the next room
and you ran in and saw his pinkie on the floor, in a small puddle of blood.

You wouldn't rush to the pinkie and say,
'Darling, are you OK? '

No, you'd wrap your arms around his shoulders
and worry about the pinkie later.

The same holds true if you heard the scream,
ran in and saw his hand or -god forbid- his whole arm.

But suppose you hear your lover scream in the next room,
and you run in and his head is on the floor next to his body.

Which do you rush to and comfort first?

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Boner Etiquette

Please: be kind to boners. Nothing
ruins an evening quicker than catching
a glimpse of a demoralized boner
sobbing into his foreskin. Remember
the boner is always half full. Most
boners sleep upside down in caves,
ready to flutter into the world
at the dropp of a bra strap. Boners
move in packs—rarely will you see one
wandering alone in a train station.
Look closer and you’ll usually find
a second boner bobbing nearby. But
it’s the lone boner, the Oswald boner,
you must watch out for. Whatever
you do, don’t challenge it. Don’t
stare it directly in the eye.

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First Person Omniscient

I made her tell me of the affair,
every detail,

and I became him, the man who pulled
her into the closet,

opening the many rooms of her mouth,
knobs spinning,

and then I was her, pulling him
by the tongue

through the river of rooms in the mansion
of my mouth,

his eyes pressing into me, his eye
seeing all,

and then I was the closet, the space
they traveled through

[...] Read more

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