Three Poems by Christina Olson

Citing Budgetary Concerns, the Hurricane Name Retirement Center Closes Its Doors

Listen: they’ve closed the hurricane name retirement center. They cited Medicare, increased life spans—but really, everything changed after Katrina checked in. When she blew through the halls, water sprung from the ceilings. When she sprawled on the couch for Wheel of Fortune, everyone evacuated. No matter what the cooks made, it tasted like salt. And the aides quit, citing black puddles in their shoes.

Most residents had no family, nowhere else to go. They’re not welcome at the casinos. But everyone lined up their one cardboard suitcase, their one bus ticket. Now the building is shuttered. The zebraed television sings a warning song. Not even sparrows nest here. Teenagers say it smells like old people, but they’re lying. The brave ones have scouted and reported back: the shadow that falls from room to room, the wind that still cries. Touch the chairs: the seats are wet. It hasn’t rained in weeks.

 

Obituary for Unpopular American Candies

It is with regret that the family of Dermott Abba-Zaba, loving husband of Altoids Ginger and former husband of Ms. Blackjack Taffy, announces his sudden death. Formerly of Atlanta, most recently of Chicago, Mr. Abba-Zaba choked on a Chicken Dinner Candy Bar, or perhaps it was the Denver Sandwich Bar that did him in; damn peanuts, damn Wisconsin! Mr. Abba-Zaba was most recently a resident of Fizzers & Flicks Hospice Inpatient Facility; his favorite time of day was High Noon, like the candy bar; his favorite food Ice Cream, as in the gum. As a young man, Abba-Zaba was the owner of Jawteasers, the first African-American burlesque hall and home to the Chocolate Mary Janes; at a time when segregation still ruled the South, he often found his life threatened. In 1935, he survived an assassination attempt by the Nickel Naks, the feared white supremacy group; he fled to Illinois when Jawteasers was torched. His house madam, Sugar Mama, did not survive the blaze.

In Chicagoland, Abba-Zaba turned his talents to candy manufacturing. The creator of Wax Fingernails, Harmonicas and Mustaches, he oversaw the factory of the same name until his retirement in 1970. After his retirement, he enjoyed spending his time working on crossword puzzles and could often be found in the third stool from the door at the Whiz Bar. His favorite greeting was Yoo Hoo. His favorite color was the sort of light green that appears for two weeks in the early days of spring. He is survived by his wife, son Reggie, and daughters Pepsin (née Gum) and Tootsie Drops.

 

The Left Hand Doesn’t Know What the Right Hand Is Doing

right as I was beginning to feel truly sorry for
myself, the girl in the yellow sweatsuit
and cheesehead ran by, late for something—
a perfect pastoral reminder of the great power of dairy products
sometimes I think the ducks are conversing
but how likely is that
I got a green head you got a green head she got a green head
that asteroid is gaining on us
believed to be extinct for years, the coelacanth
was discovered off the coast of Africa in 1938.
when they pulled him from the water,
the fish said only I got a green head
yesterday I saw a woman talking to a drunk
man with no shoes and the only thing she
kept saying was
don’t you have a phone
isn’t there someone I could call
to which he only shook his drunk head slow

I got a green head                               oh I got a green head
if the students here keep feeding the ducks
and turtles Pop-Tarts everyone’s going to
develop diabetes
I got a green head and one foot because they took the other
there’s some good news at the polls, at least
and I’m not so cold anymore
all hail the restorative powers of dairy!
but sometimes I think no home will ever be
home enough except this asteroid
I got a green head
dear Universe, this is my prayer
don’t you have a phone
isn’t there anyone I could call

 

 

***

Christina Olson is the author of the collections Terminal Human Velocity and Before I Came Home Naked, as well as the prose chapbook Rook & The M.E.: A Law & Order-Inspired Narrative. Her poetry and nonfiction has appeared in Arts & Letters, VQR, The Southern Review, Brevity, River Styx, Gulf Coast, Passages North, The Normal School, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Best Creative Nonfiction, Volume 3. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Willapa Bay AiR. Born in Cincinnati, raised in Buffalo, she teaches creative writing at Georgia Southern University.

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