Thieves of the Future

by Jennifer MacKenzie


Reading Theories of the Future
you blow on my face

Red skirt & dust
& chickenwhite wait—

who can do nothing, every ruler
signifies wishing, the burning one
at the bus stop bare casual guttering

like breathing. Between everyone
The flame she said is quite beautiful
Moves fights you breathed by

nakedness between
valor & squalor
vigilance selling
belting the oldest

Don’t start with pity, don’t
breathe sleepless, do not love

Do not think
about haikus
about corpses



My worry a bombed swan singing bombs
taste like singed cardamom. I breathe
the wet smell of our rooftop, bruised fruit

skies dock in my mouth Bang Bang! kites
sun-warmed walls & death dock there
asterisked with calla lilies & recurring thoughts like

Ok am I funny. Me & these roofs. A minor yaw
of wallow. A worry-blanket flopping beached
trout. A silverfish like a tiny dust eyebrow
possessed scurries past a clothespin

A white & orange cat seeing me slinks
under the water tank. Stretches out its back
left foot. Does not think about haikus
about corpses. Armhole one sweet valley

armhole two stinky scrub forest vague rumble
moved furniture or shelling. My worry beset
by gibberish floats a chrysanthemum sailing
stiff-edged through rushing sewage

Young men becoming sources of smoke
Humans’ desire for absolute formality
is also thinking beasts, clouds with velvet
sofa paws, a Kalashnikov brinking distant

rainstorm across Antigone cool coldcut
grotto in near-hypnosis of description
I tongue the soft baby fur of the peach
unbitten refrigerator cold of its portable flank

Birdshadows flow along concrete nude
as a dreamed Sweden, shifts of sleepers
slotted sword-ways in a solitary cell
Maybe you want to watch TV forever?



After wrestling I don’t feel depressed or trapped
or reliquary for a single huff I want to freeze
helplessness in murderous obsidian asking

just a little bit at the edges what’s going on
Not everything has to do with women. yes no yes

yes no he sings bouncing up and down
on our dirty mattress. Minstrel of funny genitals

is also cruel? Contemplative before the refrigerator
a minor yaw of wallow lit open, the sagging
garden tarp luffs over our non-galleon rooftop

watered with blotchy darks my heart beating
in my dream against a huge looming mirror
made it ripple like a drop refusing to fall

The deaths sung out at noon above the shoppers
D imitates me calculating expenses then

the effects of nerve gas, stretching diver
-ready into a stiff meat-hook-hung board

(That’s not right, your nose has to run first)



What is driving them tilts slowly toward erasure
flowing to fill the newest lowest point

A child sings back the syllables of the announcer
before her guests embark on global dispute
Welcome gallant tympanum

Planet mostly water. Hey little cage
what’s yr pleasure—to stay a drawer of folded
sleeves tucked in afeared? Touch each part

of another body with the same part. A box
of ten identical Colts disassembled & re-
Who says one is not a hoax


Welcome, gallant tympanum. I am radish
interior: sharp tight blank unsplit ace
thankless of sunrise noon & sleep

makes garbage just supportable ribs
of beast beached pink on cartons
wrappers greens city slowly eaten

by chatter of firing, wander-patterns of
ants twinkling auburn on rooftop dirt, heat
Breeze. Heat. The neighboring willow twitches

between executioner & pinioned
in many places at once


tilting them slowly toward erasure flows in
to fill the newest lowest point. Counter-
strike. A child sings the syllables. Welcome

deft & jocund intelligence, planet
mostly water. Hey little cage

bed mud skillet. Children shriek
their wonder open down the afternoon
I hang the book open on a dry gray rung

Old ladder a slim tree keeping itself apart
with its own branches. Touch each
other with the same art



I am still trapped on endless tilework
checkered utter black utter white utter

refusal as far as the eye. Untiring
instinct for theft
can crawl, tiny ant woman reading

& tired of it. From the sidelines
the TV voice is narrating danger to millions

The man I just refused is gleaming pudgy
fish. Frog-voiced mafioso sludge-

face in his own mirror I am still
wanting to hack him to death

“Touch a new world”
[shampoo or chocolate]

I am still laying pearl by pearl
the gates & moat & tower
of my miniature tirade

not fully soothed yet by crossing
your anklebone with my ankle

its tiny dueling petal-
veiled horse-face panting softness



Or maybe it’s you who is painting me as an owl

A child in blue descending/o lemon o tomato o
& swallows’ dips and swoops/Vibrato stolid
as worked iron/a vegetable seller calling

You can see all the roads & how
they’re organized/Look he said/looking

at footage of tanks/the swallows came back/small
plants chinked in the rock/where a sea was
a mountain/doesn’t close/such a casual guttering

You can blow the candle out/By then it was dawn







Jennifer MacKenzie earned an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop and presently lives in Damascus, Syria, where she is senior editor of the magazine Syria Today. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Fence, Shampoo, and InDigest.


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