after John Ashbery
I steer clear of my brother’s mania while I shop at the market.
Even if it’s the same malady, amped all the way to superhuman—
like Superman pulling me along when he leaps tall buildings, up,
up and away—there are times I fear to claim the disease as mine,
like my brother will manifest next to me, solid as a linebacker,
drag me to the butcher case, get tomahawk steaks to throw
as though they were wood and steel, not beef, just to see how well
they stick into a wall. The dread, after 20 years of not seeing him,
is an air-conditioning chill that shadows me past Spam and chili,
while a homeless man wheels a mark-down cart from the back,
enough bottled water inside to float any number of political agendas.
Asylum’s on sale in the breakfast aisle; buy three or I don’t qualify,
either for freedom or the looney-bin. Asylum’s Vincent Van Gogh,
as he painted himself, when he copied Gustave Doré’s prison yard,
blue and tan brick walls on his canvas. From the prisoners’ circle,
Van Gogh glares—a relentless, fierce look that crushes the viewer
like dried rosemary in a mortar. I know that grinding glower well:
asylum at full price, pay as I go, take all my pills or the bill’s steep.
While a checker and I watch, the mark-down cart makes another pass.
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in Oyster River Pages, Quiddity, West Texas Literary Review and other publications. His poetry chapbook, Colors the Thorns Draw, was released by Desert Willow Press in August 2001

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