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By Joshua Gage

                                                                        —after Tony Hoagland

The larva giggles when it’s drowned in tequila.
The apple weeps in the cider press.

But when Angus Stowe discusses scotch, his voice is meditative,
and it seems that scotch is never mentioned.

He mutters, The carpets don’t compliment the curtains.
He muses, Huge boosters, no payload.
He sneers, Moths have made a meal of the flight suits.
He bemoans, This one can’t escape its orbital decay.

He purses his lips as if remembering a childhood in Speyside,
then swirls the snifter, shaking his head.

The islands don’t like to match their underwear, he says,
and I begin to worry that this distant moon has morphed him
into a kilt that eschews ice cubes.

Then he complains,
This one uses a semicolon
when a period would do.

Then he whispers,
Here a North Sea dusk
stains the sea foam amber
at the distant edge of a holofilm.

Where is the whiskey of false charges and ten-year prison sentences?
Where is the bourbon of artificial gravity and mine-calloused hands?
Where is the liquor of parole debts and overpriced transport tickets                                        
with an undertone of unemployment lines                                        
and a finish of federal rations?

His mouth is blushed as if he were caught kissing someone’s wife
and he stutters like Kessler Syndrome.

When a beast is broken, it heaves and pants, frothing saliva.
When a bird is broken, it perches triumphant on a stranger’s shoulder.
But when a man is broken,
he becomes an expert of all he’s lost,
and stands there, tongue swollen on memory
as if any opinion could save him.
This one, he smiles, wears a red dress to funerals.


Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland, Ohio. His newest book, blips on a screen, is available on Cuttlefish Books. He is a graduate of the low residency creative writing MFA at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts, Ethiopian coffee, and any poem intoxicating enough to yank the breath out of his lungs.