Justin Chin

The Bends

Death! Death is just around the bend!
No, that’s just the corner convenience store,
though their mark-up is hellaciously high.
It’s unspoken, an agreement; we pay & pay
the four ponyriders of the Apocalypse to slow
the roaming toots of their clarion cry.

Oh sure, you can wear your pity party face & cry
cry cry your bitter tears, sulk till you get the bends,
but really, is that ever going to stave off the slow
crawl of your grey itch? All the bile you store
in your cheeks bites a price. Who’s going to pay
those monthly fees? The interest rate is too damn high

for us regular folk, who live & breed by the high
tide of mercy’s ebb & flow, who valiantly decry
the creeping jewels demanded of us. Our pay
scale ain’t enough to even force a bend
in the current or cause a kink in the company store.
What do we yearn for, but the long rust of slow

gears turning & the roiling of the slow
virus in the flat-footed teeter-totter high
wire act. Being in the world -no stock in store-
and not of it, is difficult. The accreted cry
of our tributary: of faggots, the inverts, the bent
& the flaming exiled; we play and pay

in blood, guilt to survive; we pray and pay
in grief & crow. What the eye of the storm said to the slow
season is what the mask of fear said to the encroaching bend
of darkness, is what the hermit crab said to the rake of high
horses, is what the peeping tom said to the shelf of cry-
onic heads & organs pickled in jars, is what the store

bought whoopie cushion said to the disaster rations stored
in the useless box, is what the sun’s scorching pay
said to the endless brine of the viridian sea, is what the cry
of salt in the wound said to the oranger cat slow
basking in the noon sun, is what the trick of light
on high said to what got lost in translation going around the bend.

Till at last, your storied past finds its natural stride & slacks to its slow grind.
You may pay the piper or the reaper. You may hightail it out of hell or dodge.
You may cry joy in public or alone instar. Like a willow, your redemption will bend.

Justin Chin is the author of three books of poetry and three books of essays. A collection of short fiction, 98 Wounds, is forthcoming in fall 2011.