From “Safety Man”
by Dan Chaon
Safety Man is all shriveled and puckered inside his zippered nylon carrying tote, and taking him out is always the hardest part. She is disturbed by him for a moment, his shrunken face, and she averts her eyes as he crinkles and unfolds. She has a certain type of smile ready in case anyone should see her inserting the inflator pump into his backside; there is a flutter of protective embarrassment, and when a car goes past she hunches over Safety Man’s prone form, shielding his not-yet-firm body from view. After a time, he begins to fill out—to look human.
Safety Man used to be a joke. When Sandi and her husband Allen had moved to Chicago, Sandi’s mother had sent the thing. Her mother was a woman of many exaggerated fears, and Sandi and Allen couldn’t help but laugh. They took turns reading aloud from Safety Man’s accompanying brochure: Safety Man—the perfect ladies' companion for urban living! Designed as a visual deterrent, Safety Man is a life-sized, simulated male that appears 180 lbs. and 6 feet tall, to give others the impression that you are protected while at home alone or driving in your car. Incredibly real-seeming, with positionable latex head and hands and air-brushed facial highlights, handsome Safety Man has been field-tested to keep danger at bay!”
“Oh, I can’t believe she sent this,” Sandi had said. “She’s really slipping.”
Allen lifted it out of its box, holding it by the shoulders like a Christmas gift sweater. “Well,” he said. “He doesn’t have a penis, anyway. It appears that he’s just a torso.”
“Ugh!” she said, and Allen observed its wrinkled, bog man face dispassionately.
“Now, now,” Allen said. He was a tall, soft-spoken man, and was more amused by Sandi’s mother’s foibles than Sandi herself was. “You never know when he might come in handy,” and he looked at her sidelong, gently ironic. “Personally,” he said, “I feel safer already.”
And they’d laughed. Allen put his long arm around her shoulder and snickered silently, breathing against her neck while Safety Man slid to the floor like a paper doll...
From “The Other Mozart: Maria Anna (Nannerl)”
by Sharon Chmielarz
Nannerl Mozart: Fashioning a Single Response
“I hope, my queen, that you are enjoying...health and that now and then...you will sacrifice for my benefit some of your important and intimate thoughts...” Wolfgang Mozart to Nannerl. Vienna, August 14, 1773.
I hope, my sensitive ass, that you receive my sacrifice
pawing, pouncing, snorting and horsing around in courts
and/or any other low place where His Highness allows
idle tongues to wag begging for thoughts—yours,
like any ass’s, come at the end where an asinine
demand traditionally & charitably exists
though marginally on a page; namely, in the P.S.,
a flatulent last blast which you, dear Arse,
were so wont to deliver in the practice room—
crepidos ventris which resembled the squall
from a brass section squatting on a hill
of Bavarian dung. My dear little Beetlebomb,
even the stoutest nose (how related the word
nose is to noise!) would have flinched, as do
equine-nostriled Viennese when they possess
during Sommerhitze an especially keen sense
of smell and source, and where a prodigious horn
like yours is small advantage—I digress, however,
from fulfilling your request. Enclosed lie two intimate
thoughts for my donkey monkey, the little A-hole
in a cherry red suit, the great Wunder Arse at the keyboard,
der Herr Dr. Wiggly Butt in the parlor but not the boudoir
(or? yet?), the twin to my own brown braying heart. No. 1:
Shit in your bed and make a good mess. No. 2: Remember
the sad smell of your own sweet queen, Lick My Arse.
From “In the Beginning”
by Joan Murray
If There Were Apples
If there were apples ripe enough to eat,
it must already have been autumn,
and the leaves of the Garden,
would already have been gold.
And when she saw an apple fall,
she would have bent to pick it up
though her fingers
must have tingled from the cold.
And when her hand was cupped around
the toppled globe,
she must have known it
was too late to put it back.
And if she brought it to her lips
to warm it with her breath,
its sweet scent
would have swept her to the ground.
And when he found her in a pile of fallen leaves
with the ripe flesh in her mouth
and the bright juice on her chin,
he would have leaned
against her breast
and had a bite.
And if there was a worm,
it already was inside.
The Robing of Adam
He summoned Adam up,
and I was forced
to watch the ravishment.
My flesh went numb,
recalling how the serpent
said we would become like God,
and now I caught
the cunning joke of what he’d meant.
I had no fear
of what our warden had in store for me.
But it was death
to see my garden disappear:
the shoulders, then the breasts
—the swirl of hair
that curled down to his root.
He’s hidden now like God
who knows the reasons for the shame
that makes him hide inside
a robe and not be seen.
But my Adam
was an Eden in his skin.
I miss the tree and animal of him:
the downy trunk,
the swagger of his fruit.