Put on a Suit When the Ship Sinks

BY Sky joiner
 

Put on a suit when the ship sinks,
one dusted of churches in southern summers
when the honeysuckles first yellowed
your hidden kisses. The shirt with every button
in every proper slot; the vest (always the vest);
the pants ironed and hanging beside the bed.
Shoes hint at the intention:
to saunter up to the pearly gates
with the side-tilt of a con artist. 
The laces thin like the aristocratic fingers
who surely once shined them, tied
like those same fingers clasped over crossed knees. 
Yet the body is scuffed, understanding. Slight cracks
reveal green and black glimpses of checkered socks
or the tiny hole on the bottom. The shape is jazz,
but the soles groan like the blues. Exactly how God
always requests trumpets, but alone, in his room, 
pulls out a harmonica. Shoes that know
with intimacy the contours of cobblestone ways,
how to sidestep the puddles, the piss of dogs.
For after one arranges the cuff links on the table,
seeing them tumble off one by one
when the ship tilts; puts on a hat (always a hat);
slides each arm into the sleeves of a jacket—
then one must step outside
amongst the panickers, the mouths
stuck on one obnoxious note as they dodge
the sliding furniture of the deck. Then one must lean
against the wall, looking down to check the time,
and calmly begin humming. 

Humanity is a Punchline


told in a seedy bar
around intimate friends.
Even the bartender
laughs—

That life
is a blinking contest,
and the formless monster
sitting across the table
has no eyelids.

 

Heather Cox reads "Put on a Suit When the Ship Sinks"


Sky Joiner is a southern poet currently teaching in South Korea. His poems and essays have appeared or are appearing in Crab Creek Review, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, Spillway, The Pinch Journal, and Aura.