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.