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“for Susan Musgrave”, “Prom Dress”, “mimesis”, “pain threshold”, and “performance art”

By Art Moore

for Susan Musgrave

free verse for felons,

his girlfriend, a handgun

poet who answered

hotel room doors

barely dressed, bare

breasted, shoulder

holster, checkered

walnut handle

the .357 caressing

the nipple

your lines were songs

I drank, youthfully

awake, aware of the

possibility of living

as a writer, trespassing

into another life.


Prom Dress

Lisa was an addict. To everything.

Late shifts as a shooter girl, amplified

tips that transubstantiated to opioids;

she’d scare-up on coke, ascend the ladder

then slide the long snake down

with Percs and Oxys,

take whatever pills were masquerading

as the gospel.

Overdose, heart attack, and then brain dead:

Sunday’s Eucharistic cannibals gave

her a baptism before unplugging life support.

There was a lump in my throat the size of Jesus

at the funeral, where she lay

in her prom dress.



sleepy plywood eyelids

of frowning row houses.

A peal of church bells plays The Westminster—

La di da-da, La di da-da.

There she is again, a soup-spill,

cigarette-ash psoriasis,

carries that naked doll,

her plastic effigy, an albatross;

Child Protective Services peeled her fingers

off the doorframe decades ago.

Stovetop ball-hat corner boys, dial-a-dopers,

fentanyl werewolves, hair-trigger star, pit bull terriers.

A kid in my wife’s class says, “Momma works

on Waterloo Street,”

her emaciated legs have the best veins

for shooting-up,

barefoot in cowboy boots, Johns order her to shower

before they start.

These leaning houses need cleaning ladies;

the city’s priority tenements are distortion mirrors,

blinds pulled on shuttered lives, Christ,

must mean more than Sunday tithes.


pain threshold

Inspired by Zach Well’s boxes

protest for longer

in the searing fear of tear gas

canisters, as skirmish lines

get rougher,

for longer than they will,

I will,


I can suffer slow death,

months of lassitude,

linen changes,

scores of bedsores,

the rat stench of betrayal

as her body died.

Drink ferric mouthfuls

of failure, abide the endless

attrition of a pandemic,

managing the growing horror,

solitary on the teeter totter,

the milk of truth has turned sour

across the border.

Without sleep for days,

chained forward in dark caves,

downwind from mass graves,

face punched, pommeled,

kicked like a rotten stump,

stagger up— stagger on,

ragged, ripped kneed, laughing

at the taste of my blood.

I can swallow fear,

cross a valley of dry bones

tripping over despair

in broken ruins,

through bombed cityscape,

listening to sinister whispers

from shadow men.

That I can suffer, endlessly,

is what makes me tougher.


performance art


dripping gonorrhea,

three paddy wagons

lined up like grave markers,

someone sitting curbside,


so I ate our mushrooms.

cellophane tied in a knot,

swallowed that too.

spinning watch hands,

felt my body thermostat


drug dogs grinned.

I winked back.

through their checkpoint,

found a watermelon stand,

my head, now on fire;

used a flick knife to make

a helmet,

gouged out handfuls;

tender pink flesh,

wore it.

giant hogweed rose from

the ditches like

Day of the Triffids,

a caliphate of cow parsnip,

swarming honeybees

and hornets

arrived to worship,

a misunderstanding,

they came in waves

of confusion, panic,

suicide attackers

en masse.

my face became

a Picasso.


About the Author

Gerald Arthur Moore is an adventurer, a part-time university lecturer, a high school teacher, and a rugby coach living in New Brunswick, Canada. NON-Publishing released his first book of poetry Shatter the Glass, Shards of Flame in 2018. He received the PubHouse Books Chapbook
prize in 2019 for Trigger Fingers.


Poetry, The River

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