The Kleptomaniac’s Giraffe

By Jon Riccio

Now that you can leave the house in a mask

we’ve got some stealing up to do. Smaller items first: aspirins,

nutmeg, peppermint from a tin. Antibodies have nothing on anti-theft.

Medium objects next: toothpaste, coffee mug, bag of socks ankle-white,

your fingers tired of their prints, lymph nodes

banking on morphine, your hands

so smooth they lift: blister, thumbnail, surveyor, spy handling

onlookers. Nobody wants what’s in your mask

so pat that perception on its head, pocket

some aromatherapy soap, nod

at the digital camera – you were boosting towels

when it was sand. Aspire in

ways that grant you strip mall status while those white

blood cells still count. You’ve got the infrared touch.

What facility! What heft!


Remember haggling with the chemo port, thief

that it was? The barterer in you broken of argument, hands

tethered to the catacomb of that sofa, blankets white

as the skin straddling your pulse. The neighbors

think you’re Jesse James in a hospice mask.

Half of you La-Z-Boy, the other, last rites, aspirins

taken with the quiz shows on TV. “Ulysses, amino, Des

Moines,” they answer the Tucson of your head: grid nodes,

traffic maps, you driving down Speedway Boulevard, fears of car theft

abated – who would gut a dying man’s Buick – aspirins

trailing it like a pothole’s thoughts, your hands

admiring a costume shop’s masks,

fenders meandering the white

of a stop sign’s letters near Copper Country Antiques,

home of the Plastic Giraffe, thirty feet of white

spotted blue and red. Six thousand the owner paid for it,

half the cost of an irradiated node.

There’s a photograph of you ogling it, jowls masking

your smile, lips ending in thieves.

You posed as a collector, handed

the cashier forty dollars, asked how they battened

the mammal at closing time, as per. In

your mind: chop shops, subdividing cells. Present eve,

stem donor scrawled on a Post-it note, aspirins

trolling the rubble of cards sent from White

Plains, the crawl space of your hand

holding malignancy by the node.

There are alleys of Tucson pebbled in hibernation,

deserts marked for theft,

polymers you’d steal using a pulley, cart and mask.

Kleptomania begins with aspirin-sized urges, gathers at the nodes.

Your illness began with a theft: white holes where a pancreas dwelled,

hands collapsed at the nails, a mask torn into years.

Jon Riccio studied viola performance at Oberlin College and the Cleveland Institute of Music. A current MFA student at the University of Arizona, his work has appeared in Bird’s Thumb and Bear River Review.