“Budget Cuts” by Danny Eisenberg

Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2019: Editor’s Choice


Black and white photo of a tattered suitcase in a burned out building

Image: “Loss for Words” by Asher ReTech. “Budget Cuts” was written by Danny Eisenberg for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2019, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

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Danny Eisenberg


At some point we realized what we owed
in back pay we couldn’t pay back; our goose

was cooked, our pancake overturned, kapowww!!
the wet half smooch-side to the linoleum. It had been

a good ride though, hadn’t it, us on our steeds,
galloping in time to the cardinals to meet up again

at the antipodes, each of us richer and ready to spend
a severed arm or a leg on amputee-strength painkillers—

Those were our Chernobyl days, our Exxon Valdez days,
our Hurricane-Andrew-for-days days, all white

and no yolk, all oil and nucleotides and
mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. Yes,

there was a man’s man, looking each of us back
from the lake; and also there, lingering abreast, a stooge,

his Charlie Chaplin suit the mushroomy shade
of disaster relief, his fingers as tightly gripped

around the handle of his tattered attaché as were his teeth
around the affricate he stitched onto the label: Ah-touch-ay

(always a touchy subject). We must have known
he would come back to kill us for insulin money, eventually,

a thing we knew like we knew how to cure cancer:
the diagnosis is the vaccine itself. Reapers come

in pairs now, like Bible salesmen, to toll the bell and wait
for me to invite them into my godless kitchen

where pot after pot of leaden tap water froths
and boils, turning to gold I scald myself to touch.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
September 2019, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Asher’s photograph invites us to wonder what happened to the owner, how it all went down, and Danny Eisenberg’s response seems to toy with that expectation, forever hinting at the backstory it never actually tells. There’s a delightful sense of suspense to that anti-narrative, and a delightful energy in the voice as it barrels down the page. It’s amazing that such a haunting image can lead to a feeling of delight, but here it does. I also learned a new word in the process—bonus!”

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