Peter Twal

Peter Twal is an electrical engineer living in Lafayette, IN and working at Purdue University. His poems have appeared (or will soon) in Best New Poets 2016, Kenyon Review Online, Ninth Letter Online, Columbia Poetry Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, Third Coast, Crab Creek Review, Quarterly West, cream city review, The Journal, Booth, and elsewhere. Peter earned his MFA from the University of Notre Dame, where he received the Samuel and Mary Anne Hazo Poetry Award. You can read some of his writing at petertwal.com.

 

Where Are Your Friends Tonight

 

And even when all my friends drop off the face        of my front porch,

their droning continues, lower, below me        their crumbled heads

 

pumpkins the morning after Halloween night       Oh, my beautiful smithereens lodged between

your teeth       Is it what’s left of them that carries me overhead        I want to be revered,

 

a moldy peanut on the backs of ants, a golden calf hoisted up a mountainside A mustard stain

inhaling the white of this doctor’s coat like a dying star with its gravity

 

Hear it imploding, and I’m afraid       the science fair in your kidney has gone awry Has God        fallen

asleep        at the projector        The following montage: all my friends are ribbon clad kids

 

going up in smoke magician style       in the flameflashbang of an old timey camera        in a thick

cloud of chalk clapped out by a giant hand from above       In the margins, a prescription

 

for sleeping pills        Me, under the stethoscope, everything sounding like the afterlife        The doctor

removes shards of you from my skin like splinters, sews my face back onto my face

 

and asks if my arm was always not there, but I don’t remember        Take eight of these at a time    

or until memory stops developing overexposed, skin stops looking linen         but I don’t remember

 

 

 Days in the Middle

And on TV, a report of an actor dying something fierce        her last wish for someone

to pull out a cellphone        film the scene, but also would the whole thing have seemed

so lonely if Death didn’t snap a selfie before closing the curtain around them both         Sometimes,

I feel like a rock God accidentally roved up to        a waste of binary waves on their way home        All my friends

in a lab waiting to examine the pockmarks on my face       and deep in His transistors, would He regret

 

thinking a universe of me, that I could resurrect anything       The wind is off key here, the static virgin

From his red throne the Mars Rover phones home, telegram tone deaf         I can see Earth from

here and there are signs of water and life and I am really doing it        oh creator what you said

you couldn’t        Presently, in the mirror I pretend to be important

 

to someone named Steve so I know how it feels to say something charged        like who let me wear

this scarf to Steve’s bachelor party        Slap at a buzzing by my ear and deal with regret

like we all do        imagining my littlest self pulled up and peeking out from my eyelids        yelling

what he sees back to my other selves waiting below        yelling oh creator what you said

you couldn’t       water and life        and he seems set on that scarf

 

Stand, You Can Sleep on the Plane

 

And at a bus stop you rummage through your pockets when you realize you’ve misplaced

something staggering, ancient Thumbing         around, it’s only a matter of time

until you’re all       and now where did my thumb go          Fallacy of the individual body, I remind myself, jamming

 

a thumb (maybe yours) onto my hand, remind myself people can hear you grunting        At dinner, how you swell

like the first human to survive        the peeling of an onion—        foam from the eyes,

 

returning to your cave, words clotting in your throat        Or the old woman

at the grocery store grunting, too        as she unpouches her stomach to lay down the day’s vegetables

at the checkout         (stop  the line, write a check)        and her skin pouring to the ground

like cake batter        Behind her, another man’s milk sours            while she’s heaved onto the conveyor belt        the invisible

thumbless hands conducting surgery       and over the intercom: You say you heard        the doctor gave Death

 

just one hundred and eighty more suns

The tumor talking back now        old enough        do you copy

 

to high five        come in, do you copy and still        all my friends frame me for soldering Death’s wallet chain

to its hospital bed frame        In all of this flotsam, I remind myself, why can’t I find the tongue to laugh myself awake

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