Robert Siek

Born in the U.S.A.

Money, money, money, damn chant singsong on Lexington

and 59th, a man with a cane limps past speaking loud,

arm extended, hand carrying an open baseball cap,

mesh liner loaded with change, dollar bills.

He hums what sounds like "Gimme Shelter";

he's gonna fade away. And H&M didn't have

men's corduroy pants despite the appropriate season—

stress of trying on clothing that should fit but sweaty

never squeezes past hips; this male figure

now adult Kewpie doll, god damn fitness,

the U.S. economy, the ability to accept

the things I cannot change and the courage

to change the things I can. Perhaps it's time

for new experiences: signing up for tap class,

learning to use a sewing machine, sketching

nude models in studios with charcoals. It's been

since high school the visual meant right this second;

this attention to details cost an extra day of income,

eight additional hours of trying to stay awake.

Perhaps it's important to pick up a trade,

because buildings multiply reversed clips

of a Jenga stack tipped over on tables, good-bye

abandoned residence, kind with planks nailed over

broken windows, very keep zombies out,

the serial killer hoping to clear house,

like every day is Halloween and one day

the power will shut off, the entire eastern

seaboard dark, and carpentry now useful,

as well as weapons and survival skills

in this country called a superpower,

an empire still dominant,

we'll never be refugees,

unbathed, starving,

or half-dead

asylum seekers,

fifty on a lifeboat.

The Guest Room Must Be Haunted

Forced to watch a ceiling fan,

its highest setting, attack of pinwheel,

most giant UFO drilled through rooftop,

flickering circle, wash cycle, brain fed Adderall,

this full-size bed in a guest room, where a parent died

two years ago, the mother incapable of waking

the father. He always watched the television

when lights out and good night.

Don't change the channel. One eye

must be open. How can this be comfortable?

Central air on top of it all. The sheer navy valance

shakes atop closed blinds; each panel some undone skirt

a ballet dancer wore during a recital, a female ice skater

twirled in—the bunching on the rod, just picture a waist.

This room not so important, temporary.

The closet where his clothes were kept.

His wife claimed the walk-in

of the master bedroom.

Three toolboxes on the floor under

pants, shirts, jackets, their wire hangers—

a few pieces never worn after being drycleaned,

numbered tags stapled to washing instructions,

narrow ones through buttonholes, sights behind

clear plastic bags, so goddamn long, kinds

that dragged on floors, aging out

of outfits, necessary organs

not functioning, his hours on dialysis,

the air angry, batted out-of-hand particles,

weaved blankets flipped-out ghosties taking

cover when a helicopter lands,

unidentified flying object

destroys worlds.

The fake lilies

on the dresser

need to go.

What's Your Damage?

Fifty degrees out, January: I need to blow my nose.

Heathers on Showtime last night; I watched more

than half, very basement in my parents' house,

ninth grade, me and two friends on a leather couch.

And they played hopscotch in grammar school,

while I jumped rope in another playground,

where boys called me faggot

and picked me last in gym.

And I threw one down a hill,

his body a stunt double,

messy dive through a window,

like in an '80s horror movie—

when killers chucked corpses to shatter glass

and get closer. He smacked my head for no good reason,

so I pictured a jump rope around his neck and kitchen knives

in backpacks. I'd stab like beating out a fire, very Manson member

following orders, nothing like Michael Meyers jamming a knife,

a young man left fixed to a wall, like a reminder on a cork board.

And Veronica mixes milk with orange juice

in Heather's kitchen, her vengeance

for being asked, "What's your damage?";

called a cooze for being so high school,

puking in a hallway at a Remington party.

They want Heather to vomit the morning after.

Christian Slater's character fills a mug with rust remover.

Veronica makes a mix up, waking Heather with the wrong cup.

"You think I’ll drink it just because you call me chicken."

Never looking inside, Heather adds,

"Just give me the cup, jerk."

Then gagging, throat clutching

before the classic "Corn nuts,"

spoken half a second previous to her free fall in pink,

face forward atop a coffee table; tempered glass explodes

outward, granular chunks land voodoo-dust circle

trapping new dead. Three ninth-graders

laughed because it’s only a movie;

we smiled at acted-out scenes

of popular students being murdered.

I'm waiting for a J train and it's warm for January.

I'm stuck on Heathers, jocks stripped to underwear

and shot in the woods, this shit didn't happen

in either small town I grew up in:

boxers and briefs, bullet holes in chests.

And once I squeezed a sharpened pencil

in freshman math class, considering it halfway deep

in the back of a classmate after he turned and said faggot

before pushing a book off my desk. Boys being boys,

hand flying, closed fist knocking a locked door,

choose your favorite on-screen serial killer

approaching very speed walker.

Jamie Lee Curtis screaming,

"Let me in!" Punctures for real,

Heather's not breathing,

his blood on my desk, like Manson-style finger writing,

and I was red, face flushed, noticed stares from peers

possibly concerned—students claiming to have known

Heather when she was alive. My hand opened.

The pencil rolled across my test paper.

"Fuck me gently with a chainsaw."

Remember that line in the cafeteria.


Author Bio

Robert Siek is the author of the poetry collectioN Purpose and Devil Piss (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013), as well as the chapbook Clubbed Kid (New School University, 2002). His second book of poetry, We Go Seasonal, will be published in 2018, also by Sibling Rivalry Press. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works at a large publishing house in Manhattan.