Shirts or Skins, a 2014 poetry chapbook by Jim Redmond

Everything Must Go

I found the fire of myself inside of myself.

It was there the whole time;

only, it wasn’t a real fire, was it?

It was a stuffed toy at the bottom
of the big-claw machine that I’d been avoiding.

100 palely loitered Jesuses mixed in with the fire
like a bad fruit salad
in the time of free beer and motley.

You can’t catch a fire with a claw,
but you can catch its fire-retardant representation.

I wanted to win it for me,

but it wasn’t that easy, what with the gaunt cotton Jesuses,
the claw and the clunky controller.

Up close, the fire was even less of a fire.

It had a no-slip grip.

It was machine-wash only.

It came with a list of poorly written instructions.

It had a voice-box you had to squeeze a voice out of.

It said I was a bad person.

Why didn’t I write my mother more often?

It said I suffered from a shame-complex,
but that this wasn’t its fault,

that I was always wearing that stupid hat.
Why was I always wearing that stupid fucking hat?

I wasn’t a risk taker, was I?

That it was a phony fire because I was a phony man
in a world where everything
was either coin-operated or rendered to Caesar.


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