“Lip Gloss, Belgium” by Jim Daniels

Jim Daniels


The phone company sent me six bills, postage 42 cents
each, to tell me I owed 26 cents. Then they sent

a bill saying I owed $6.26. When I called to object,
I was phone-menued to a new dial tone.

I borrow my neighbors’ dog for runs in the park
just to be able to hand back the leash and walk away.

The moon is missing a smudge tonight.
My daughter pulls on my hair to make sure

I’m not a witch. She cried when I beat her
at ping-pong. The computer’s red thing

underlined it—I’m supposed to capitalize
Ping-Pong. Red Thing wants to be capitalized too.

A train runs under my chair and crashes into my foot.
I wish I’d grown up in Ping Pong, Wisconsin.

Or Hyphen, Missouri. My daughter’s been studying
the phrases of the moon (Red Thing didn’t catch that one!)—

My favorite is Doth Hither! My hair’s not falling out,
just stiffening white. I tried to keep the game close,

but that made it worse. I would’ve happily lost.
The soul is the size of a ping pong ball with the consistency

of jello (Jell-O?). It’s lit by a wick formed with the letters
of the first lie. The world says I owe it 26 cents.

To send it c/o Red Thing, AL. Maybe Red Thing
should just underline lies. I was born before

Lip Gloss was invented. I used to use an ink eraser
manufactured in Oxymoron, New Jersey—I believe

the soul of the nun who was my sixth grade teacher
was made of that exact same material. My daughter

is asleep now. Someone is calling a dog in, but the dog
isn’t coming. Maybe the soul is a place where someone

is calling for us. No matter what we say, the voice
keeps calling—it could be dinner time or bath time.

We’ll never know. Or maybe when we die, and our bodies
are taken to Lip Gloss, Belgium, we find out.

Or else, we meet some boring asshole who keeps insisting
we call it table tennis. When the moon’s last dark smudge

becomes light, like a ping pong ball rising off the table
toward the basement’s spiky rafters, nearly anything could happen.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010
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