The Skeptic’s Apocalyptic Back Scratcher; Po’ Boys; I Would Tap That; Elusive Quarry; About a Rocket

The Skeptic’s Apocalyptic Back Scratcher

To scratch is to admit feeling,
fingernails peeling, revealing

sensation that no Zeno or Kant,
Hegel or Lacan can recant,

one twitch and the scholars flee
through the rainy night of history,

streaking tail lights in the city,
the student doubts existentially

the thoughts once impenetrable
as he wonders if intellectuals

are at jackhammers and manholes
while all the Neanderthals stroll

in hallowed academic hollows
always only filled with echoes

from lost sources of the creed:
skepticism. Do they never bleed,

immortals reincarnated within
classrooms where they sing hymns?

Barricaded behind battlements of books,
eyeing the world with scathing looks

as it churns and burns and pitches—
gods who cannot scratch their own itches.

Po’ Boys

I’m tired. Tired of being pricked
like a voodoo doll a seamstress mistook
for her pincushion. Maybe I was dropped
as a child in a vat of blackstrap molasses
and my super power is not giving a damn,
or maybe I am a long-lost descendant
of catfish deities that I ate in a po’ boy
and my immortality is why I no longer
muster up the aforementioned damnation,
being older than sin, the sin there at creation.
I think I can no longer tell when I think,
ignorance has never heard of me, apathy
never cared about me, lounging in the shade,
too tired to exist metaphorically, spiritually
doing the dead-man’s float in quicksand
as Salvador Dali tugboats plod past me
with tourists painting still life of me, the
speck of destiny in the grander scheme
of things who will one day breaking free
of the speckled robin egg cosmos—
I’m still working out why—I suppose
to have worms shoved down my throat
like po’ boys. And maybe those trees
sigh above me, tired of dying every year,
and the gods that are left are tired
of the world they made, tired of me
and those things adjoining humanity,
busily planning another apocalypse—
but maybe it already hit and I’m far
too tired to comprehend it and I’m
still here because I am so tired the devil
will have to come and haul me to hell,
which is where I am most likely bound,
because heaven seems so far away—
unless I am already there, in which case
put another po’ boy on my plate.

I Would Tap That
tree, where tangled rubber veins weave
through writhing trunks bored with spiles
and drained of xylem by dealers who supply
a treacle trickle brewed by flue pans
in pharmaceutical shacks sprouting
on the wilderness’ backside and
packaged and sold by grade of purity
to pushers and amateurs across state lines,
a distilled swill for addicts who wipe faces
across plates to inhale any trace
of substance that hits their bloodstream
and tempts children and lights up their brain
like a burning January Christmas tree,
New England’s nectar of the clods
on plashy waffle and flapjack stacks
higher and higher, chasing our fructose fix
tickling our tastebuds and gliding down
we all have our straws in the maples
transfusing from their veins into ours.

Elusive Quarry

Perhaps it was the idea of diving into a hole in West Virginia
that lured Lucia back to the old quarry, or that the company

had filled it with water when they were finished prying precious
stones from her craggy veins so that people looking for a good time

would not fall head over heels and hurt themselves. She stood a second
time that day, staring into the murky depths and wondering to no one

if anyone would ever know the heart of the mountain again. College
students glided across the void on black glass, the density keeping

them aloft and crushing them if they delved heedlessly below. She
folded her hands to the sky. Birds skimmed the surface, uneasy at the depth,

and zagged away when she passed, and the rabble cracking cans started
at the crack in the glass. Rushing conversation and the glint of overlooked

treasures from jilted hills pushed her away, and she glimpsed the perspective
through the glass before breaking though and breathing again, disappointed.

About a Rocket

I could have been somebody by now—
maybe I just missed the when and how.

The sky was the limit, and I went off
like a rocket. One of those that falls

on the street and shoots sideways and
makes men whoop and women scream.

Neighbors call to report disorderly conduct
as dogs ricochet through shadows and I go off

like a bad dream in which we are all tucked,
but that night we wallowed in a sea of laughter

as sulfur glowed in flammable hair and smoke
belly-danced inside your neighbor’s Porsche.

Sure, I lost a fortune and my good looks, but
at least this version of life I can post on Facebook.

Alex Pickens recently graduated Magna Cum Laude at the age of 33. This year his work appears in Maudlin House, Pretty Owl Poetry, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Jersey Devil Press, Mad Scientist Journal, Crack the Spine, and Allegory Ridge, while his flash fiction has been nominated for a Best Microfiction, 2018 anthology.