The Boiler

Jeanann Verlee

TRUISM

Last night I tangled my face
tight around Bobby Flay’s lips.
Yes, Bobby Flay—master chef—
and yes, it looked as awkward
as you imagine. So much red hair
and freckle mashed together—
no telling where one cheek ended
and the other began. Blur. Like
elephant art. Everything has
happened so fast, I’m standing
in a room full of packed boxes,
dumb as a gull. Bobby is a go-
getter. Makes things happen.
Until he moved his hand up my
skirt, he didn’t know. Was
surprised by the firm of my ass.
Couldn’t have known how I bite.
He spotted me outside Mesa Grill
trying to hail a cab. Stuffed his
entire tongue in my mouth. Bam.
Shameful, they say. Celebrity-
kissing on the street, cameras
popping like fireworks. Bobby
promised to make me his wife.
We already named the children:
Bartleby, Hephaestus, and Thum-
belina. He says he’s loved me
since boyhood. Spent each
of his days longing. Used to park
his car in front of my apartment,
hoping for a glimpse. Left every
woman who ever loved him.
Wrote a whole book of vegetarian
recipes just for me.


THE PROPOSAL

Strangers gawk in awkward amazement.
Her once unspoiled skin, cracked and peeling.
The smell of char as she passes.

A constant, almost inaudible sizzling.
Heat pours off her shoulders like a bad radiator.
She moves between tables, sipping other people’s

bourbon, laughing at unintentional jokes.
Wears a collar of orange flames, little else.
Friends offer up water glasses, chase after her

with wintry coats, patting down the flare.
She offers charmed giggles, politely
removes patches of skin as they curl upward.

Plucks fried hair in wiry clumps, peels away
shriveled chips of blackened muscle.
In passing whispers, friends recount the tale:

her lover arrived at her door,
knelt at her feet, reached to his pocket.
How tears swelled out and down her face,

lips already mouthing the word yes.
Then, in his hands, only matchsticks and butane.
How he doused her toes. How loud the rumble.

______________________________

JEANANN VERLEE is author of Racing Hummingbirds, recipient of the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in poetry, and the forthcoming collection, Said the Manic to the Muse. She has been awarded the Third Coast Poetry Prize and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in The New York Quarterly, Rattle, and failbetter, among others. Verlee wears polka dots and kisses Rottweilers. She believes in you.