Unnatural Disasters

Remember, in the days before gender
reveal parties, when expectant parents
would say they didn’t care if the baby
was a boy or a girl, as long as it was healthy.
Ten fingers and ten toes and all that
breeder bullshit. They didn’t mean it,
of course, in the same way that saying
being nominated for an award is as much
of an honor as winning. It’s not, and
anyone who says it is is a fucking liar.

One of the fires reducing the Pacific coast
to ash and rubble is rumored to have been
started at one such unnecessary affair,
pyrotechnics gone wrong in the name
of announcing the sex of a fetus. Fireworks
in a landscape as dry as Mike Pence’s
epididymis. You can’t cure stupid, but
you may be able to persuade it to sacrifice
itself to the flames, to burn alive, to smoke
dance, to paint the sky red.

In an ocean as warm as reheated soup, tropical
depressions and disturbances whip themselves
into feverish frenzies. They barely speak
to each other in their hurry to make landfall,
wash away any trace of survival. The wet
and wild gender reveal party has its names
picked out long before the due date arrives.
Meet Sally who wants to tickle the Panhandle.
Say hello to Paulette and Rene, neither
of whom can speak a word of French.

There’s Teddy, who has been researching
what it means to be non-binary. Vicky
with a “y” not an “i” or, heaven forbid,
two “e”s, is desperate to find her birth
mother and plans to look in (and devastate)
as many places as she can on the way.
The calendar says it’s only the middle
of September, but these uninvited guests
don’t pay attention to such details, show
up early, late, any damn time they please.

Dreaming Dead

This is the way it will happen. First, a thirst
and then swallowing back the menace of acid
reflux from a much too late spicy Indian dinner.
Palak paneer, samosas, garlic naan. Reaching

for the glass mug of room temperature mint
tea on the bedside table to tamp it down, rinse
it away. Also, too late because it is the long
anticipated result of an internal flaw exacerbated

by external forces. Say, Amy Coney Barrett.
The simplest of math equations, easier to tally
than ballots in Florida. Bloating, night sweats,
memory loss, fuzzy vision, a cracked tooth,

joints as stiff as erections used to be, the insistence
on always being right. There is brief illumination
from the oversized face of an Indiglo watch,
confirmed by an iPhone screen. Ashen as one

of the tiny lizards, scampering towards and then
away from the sudden flick of a light switch,
trapped in the house too long. The last slow leak
of breath that makes the dog whimper as she

does at something of that pitch, just soft enough
not to wake Rick. When he calms down sufficiently
to remember the laptop password, he laughs and
cries at the updated will, revised a few days ago

to include leaving the ceramic camel and its
camel-related ephemera to Chris, and the vintage,
miniature, cream-colored, swiveling, black and
white, table-top Sharp television set to Dana.

Gregg Shapiro is the author of nine books including the forthcoming poetry chapbook Refrain in Light (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2023). Recent/forthcoming lit-mag publications include The Penn Review, RFD, Gargoyle, Limp Wrist, Mollyhouse, Impossible Archetype, and Panoplyzine, as well as the anthology Let Me Say This: A Dolly Parton Poetry Anthology (Madville, 2023). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in South Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.