Charles Borkhuis & John McCluskey

from Finely Tuned Static

turn away and fall back into the swirling
black hole of a head imploding
your own little burned-out star
lost footage unraveling
play it again or drop me like a stone
leave me holding the bag
of broken narratives my atomic ray gun
and vibrating crayons my painter’s glass eye
running down the face of a window
leave me blindly stumbling circles on stilts
serious clown spiraling down to the molten core

let us ask no more from this smiley-faced world
shake it off like a dog shivers off sleep
or fall back into the dead-eyed nod of need
fall back into the rubble-twitch
the reservoir of uncertainty welling up in the sinews
your puerile smile still stutters on a stick
giving epileptic dictation to a stranger self
riding shotgun over nameless hills and valleys

we are talking behind a blindfold now
a swerving yellow snake on the road shake it off
like an extra head crossing the dividing line
shake it off like a dead star I’m calling to you
from another life listen I see sunflowers in the mirror
sunflowers blooming through the cracks in your mouth

maybe she just needed a reactor in blue
for nuclear containment
a rectangular monolith
that she could call her own

but the structure trembled from within
and sprung a plasma leak
of high school colors totally
purple and white and before she knew it
she was in the middle of a teenage meltdown

shutter tempo in the social swirl
more voltage to the sign
corrupted code inside a double cross
humiliated at the edges
of her limits she just had to
stand on the head of a pencil
and twirl

words never did her justice
they just rained down on her hands and face
she struck needles in the clouds
as if red could ever set her free
as if her identity could somehow be released
by radioactive backtalk

stopped at the crossroads dizzy
before the depths delirious in the after-blast
what blast the eyes what vision crawled back
inside the colors black the voice said take red
to heart open the scissor’s eye cut deep
through paper sky hemorrhaged bloody
clouds white specks of mountain peaks
below what I might glimpse but no
break the mirror strike me blind and I
what miracle but enough of that what accident
still vibrating and so on flecks of purple-blue
serpent I saw it slithering away to never know
another person might we just pull down the sun
made it run a gauntlet of dark trees but no
so many bodies rolled up in a ball all silence now
all land every wordslide into syllables all dream-
like snap of a twig the smear of a face an ear
what ear speaks to the rumble the molten river
thick lava mouth come clean don’t leave me
red among the swirling numbers

shimmer surface bending
light across a body below
the crimson field trembling between us
phantom ripples approximate
to everyone I’ve ever known
no choice but to invent a voice
pull it out of the burning rock
let it speak for me

mr empty sockets behind reflecting shades
miss dream machine incapable of lying
on a good day
the fugitive escaping through the underbrush
the detective walking circles
around his shadow

unremitting insomnia
the banal cozies up to the terror
for a last kiss
I catch fish with my eyes
the watery dead girl floating
in the dank weeds


all matter of darkness of day
my sun my moon my mirror
image of you inside my head
neither alive nor dead

internalized facsimile
of everything made
to seem real that we might
fall in love with a smudge
and defend it to the end

a funny fold-up gesture
a fatal wink a waning smile
a little doggie bag of lost horizons
and flaming sunsets replayed
on video approximate to being

reality come again
across this tiny stage
your tongue in my ear
makes me jump
over cascades of inner static

I was here in the daylight
be it night
my love relived on the head of a pin
spinning feverishly into the red cloud
the zero zone that surrounds us

Finely Tuned Static, with poems by Charles Borkhuis, collages by John McCluskey, is due to be released in March of 2017 by Lunar Chandelier Press.

Charles Borkhuis is a poet and playwright living in NYC. His nine books of poetry include: Dead Ringer (BlazeVox) , Disappearing Acts (Chax), Afterimage (Chax), and Alpha Ruins (Bucknell U.). His plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hartford, and Paris.

John McCluskey is a painter who has shown in New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. His work has been exhibited at the Pennsylvania State Museum as well as Katonah Museum of Art, New York and Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University. His work is included in the permanent collection of the International Collage Center.

The collages above are vinyl paint and ink on vellum and other assorted papers on gesso board.
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