Peter Jay Shippy


A Flower of the Proletariat


The sudden April flurries thicken my tongue.
On TV an old cartoon: a rooster combs his comb

and steals red roses from the farmer’s gravestone
for his big date. My neighbor is riding his snowplow

door to door. He wears a lei of garlic. He wants us
to sign his petition. He’s one of those lizards

you find on a remote island—cut off from par evolution—
who has acquired eccentric gifts: a second stomach,

an eye in the back of his head, a sweet tenor voice.
I should talk? Me with the unmatched coffee cups?


The truck’s yellow lights diagnose my dark living room.


When I finally surf back to the cartoon, the rooster
is chased by a cadre of ghosts. He drives a wooden car

into the sea and paddles so fast his wings are a smear.
The ghosts stand on the shore hurling starfish

and insults. It seems that water travel is forbidden
to the dead. I write this tidbit on my forehead.


Last week I found a bee holding slow to a Venetian blind.
The first of the season? The last of the batch?

I put the bee inside my mouth and place our heads under
the shower to shield our wherefores from the whereof.


The truck stops to let the tide lap its plow, its headlights
wound the beach, it inches forward then disappears.



Peter Jay Shippy is the author of two books of poems, Thieves’ Latin (Univ. of Iowa Press) and Alphaville (BlazeVOX Books). Newer poems can be found in The American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, and Jacket, among others. He teaches at Emerson College in Boston. His website: