“The Dream of Butterflies,” oil on canvas, by Odilon Redon, ca. 1915.

Purgatorio’s Bar & Grille

God may have created
the universe and all therein
But he never made any money off it
as He’s the first to tell you

Chewing air like styrofoam
The air traffic smeared portentous
That you say you’re ready to die
is proof you’re not

So you make your other demand:
Tell me more, oh cavalcade of ghosts
Of your future in this land

Your dollars blur
and the banner in the eagle’s beak reads
Too Smart For Your Own Good in Latin

A slim woman
who smokes as a bird might smoke
squints up from the surprisingly deep trench
of our shared humanity

A sassy bag of gristle, you might say
in prouder circumstances

But now you admire her defiance
of the only absentee parent
who’s guaranteed to come for her

You want to be a human being
when you grow up

Dispatch from the Primordial Client Dinner

Within the promise of money just beyond
one more hump of sports talk and small bonhomie
under the unanswerable: What else are you gonna do?
comes dessert, the Amex corporate card
centurion to sweep us to bed
Another client dinner like dear old dad
in the years he could charm, reconnoiter, raconteur
and haul home a quarter mil

It must have seemed a dimly explained miracle
and he, the stolid Irish executioner of it
the smartest man ever born on signing day
what a disappointment his home could be—
wife sad again, son sad now too,
decrying childhood as a long prelude to a vapid scam
perpetrated by death’s own quislings

So he watched the Red Sox, the trials, elections
great doings of diminished days
And there were no vacations in the eyes of time
only frozen food and warm chaos
in which anybody could find the deep, true seam
built right in by the One who designed the whole show to fail
and exploit it to the end of days

That’s how you come up feeling
like no rule exactly applies to you
like you’re the natural predator of the beast
that’s lazily digesting the whole world

You crest the hill, and it’s really just fucking laughable—
this garbage swirl of zombie language
that thinks it can defend what it cannot mean
Its blind eye the gleam off an aluminum can
and its maw a pile of wet socks
It is so damn dead that you can’t figure out how to kill it
The wet cloth of its throat retreats from your spear
its trash body skitters from your heel
How to murder such a thing, made of gum-wrapper words,
whose blood never nourished it or anything?

You never lose, exactly
It just wears you out


Colin Dodds is the author of several novels including Windfall and The Last Bad Job. His poetry has appeared in more than 250 publications. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter. See more of his work at thecolindodds.com.