Perry Janes


There are things I don’t know,
can’t know, and maybe don’t want to,
including what a man’s teeth look like
through a rifle’s magnifying scope. Tonight
a frightened anchor on the radio reports
a gunman stalking Interstate 96 firing
into backseats, windshields, drivers behaving

erratically, causing pile-ups. I’m sick of
God and his potholes, the many mouths
opening relentlessly, beneath. Tonight
a costumed boy with ketchup-
colored wounds pressed in his gut
will ring my doorbell with hands held out
expecting something sweet. The truth?
All I want is to sit on the living room
couch with my mother, my father, and not
imagine them as ghosts. To hold
the teacup handle of my lover’s wrist
and not to feel for fractures. O eye
on the highway, muzzled median, bullet
meant for my seat: I too have sought
to slow the snaking blur that passes
every afternoon. To cradle something
cold against my chest and feel the judder
as it kicks from my grasp, away.
When I think of you, I imagine just
barely escaping. Your index finger leads
my car’s bald tires. Maybe this is love,
not pulling the trigger. Maybe no one
will ever know me so completely. Tonight
all I have is enough to feel grateful for.
My parents in their bodies, my lover in hers.
A parade of costumed children bravely
trying on their deaths. The boy
at my door smiling,
those teeth—


the son of an insomniac, i’m practiced at hearing the little
bells of a restless night ring before arrival. how the cut

angle of my neighbor’s porch light knifes past slat blinds
in slants to remind me, somewhere, the world is hard

at work. whole years i learned to roll shut the factory doors
of my eyes, to seal out the city’s soundings, asleep, until

i found myself again leaning in the half-open door
of my mind. its neon cravings screamed the night

awake. it may sound predictable but i never understood,
given time, the heart’s hunger will eat even the body.

it may seem obvious to say it but, given practice,
the body’s dark streets will learn to echo back

night’s province of pawn shops, windows full of treasure,
hand-scrawled ads promising salvation for the price

of just a few keepsakes. at this dim threshold i’ve haunted
too many times, too dull for the drunk or delirious to find

comfort, where billboards mouth their horseshit vows
and wind labors to lift each breath at my shirtsleeve,

i’m practiced at bending low to the jewel cases until
even my mud brown eyes are gems looped with string

and it’s not romantic, the way daylight breaks the color
of bullion on this street. magpies shriek the day

awake. Laundromats open their damp mouths
to gargle with coins.

Perry Janes                            

Perry Janes is a poet and filmmaker from Metro Detroit, Michigan. A Pushcart Prize and Hopwood Award recipient, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in POETRY, Beloit Poetry Journal, West Branch, Tupelo Quarterly, Zyzzyva, and others. He earned his BA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College. A recipient of the AMPAS Student Academy Award and an inaugural fellow of the Imagine Impact Content Accelerator, he currently lives and works as a screenwriter in Los Angeles.