“The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living; or, Selfies,” a poem by Jeff Alessandrelli

When asked what he would save
If his house was on fire
John Cocteau replied, “The fire.”
A convicted arsonist,
The work that Cocteau admired
Was of the variety that revealed itself immediately
And then changed such a reveal
Over time.
Fire’s hot, burns things.
Each flame understands
An illusory world
Where everything is
That’s the case
And nothing is
Ever hidden.
Conjecture is confusing:
How the thought of what might have happened
Rapidly exhausts the life
It once sought to explain.
Pestered as to why he would save something
As unwieldy as smoke,
As gauche and obvious as heat,
Cocteau gently explained,
“Shut up.”
Responding to a shirtless selfie
Sent by his old boyfriend,
His new ex-fuck buddy,
Shut up! reads the text of a message
Daryl sends while idling in rush hour traffic.
!!? is Sean’s immediate response.
Both men know that
Every successful selfie reveals
Not its subject but its subject’s
Moods and desires.
I want to fuck you read
The serrated pixels
Of Sean’s bare torso.
I want to be fucked
Allows Daryl’s flat
Un-response response.

Jeff Alessandrelli is the author of THIS LAST TIME WILL BE THE FIRST (Burnside Review Press, 2014) and Fur Not Light (Burnside Review Press, 2019), among other works. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he runs the vinyl-record literary label Fonograf Editions.

Image: discover.goldmarkart.com

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