The Parable of the Puffed Grain

Is a bowl of puffed rice holy? Popped cereal
fell in the battle of the Crunch Wars, outgunned
by orange corn squares with tiny percussion

orchestras inside and spheres of multigrain adrift
on a milk sea drizzling rainbow milt to the drone
of infinitesimal bagpipes. Those weightless albino

zeppelins wafted out of their cardboard hangars,
landed in a porcelain cwm like nestling and innocent
pupae of wind-bent, wet-footed grass, then fell from grace

to the bottom shelf of the cereal mile of the Save-Mor
in whose parking lot two men—one old, one young—
came to my rolled down passenger window, worn bibles

in hand, and asked if I’d accepted Jesus as my savior.
Complicated question. I had two jobs as a child—
feel nothing and eat bowls of cereal as I watched TV.

It’s what saved me from the shrapnel of serial
abandonment on the homefront or a sudden barrage
of sycamore achenes in enemy territory—my battlements

invisible as prayer, the metousiosis of hard kernel
into assuaging puff, a teaching of what holiness may
herald: Expecting something that is already gone.



Marian emerged from the men’s
Room as if nothing was wrong.
But peeking out, clasping hipbones,
Was a new twist in her thong.


Cassie wasn’t into boys, she said,
And hit on girls like a male sleaze.
Caught tonguing Brian’s ear, she confessed,
“I like girls, but boys are more fun to tease.”


Frank was writing his dissertation,
Couldn’t pay his share of the rent, he said.
It explained his weird hours,
But not the strap-on under his bed.


Marshall was driving everyone crazy.
He thought ghosts were fucking in closets.
Our intervention led to the ultimatum:
Eviction or start taking your anti-psychotics.


Going green, Marcus swore off baths, showers.
His oily skin, smug and virtuous, shone.
He couldn’t figure why his girlfriend left him
Or why he ate every meal alone.

Michael Gushue is the co-founder of the poetry press Poetry Mutual. His books are Pachinko Mouth, ConradGather Down Women, and, in collaboration with CL Bledsoe, I Never Promised You a Sea Monkey and The Judy Poems. He lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C.