The Boiler

Ross Losapio

PRAYER WITH A RINGING PHONE

This far from the ocean, the gulls don’t waste any
movement keeping aloft, taut feathered curves catching
whatever breeze the Walmart parking lot spirals upward.
They drop for scraps of doughnut, spilled jelly beans,
a fake mustache floating in a shallow puddle
by the cart return, motor oil blurring its edges
into purple motion, something alive—
asphalt not much different from the hard-packed sand
the winter we rented that house on the beach, sang
and shucked ears of corn on the porch,
tossing leaves straight into the water, silk
and seaweed and mermaid purses. The squeal of peeling
husk slipping beneath the timpani of waves. I walked miles
hunting nautilus and snail shells—most thumb-sized,
but the largest hand-like, curling over into a chitinous fist.
I dropped it back into the surf immediately, the unexpected heft,
I thought, was claw and tentacle. It’s hull, instead,
filled with ice. At the house, my dog made a meal
of the telephone cord dangling errantly
into his crate. We set mouse traps
on the counters to keep him away from untended leftovers,
ran him for hours at the end of a rope to burn
his manic energy, and still he yelped all night, snapped
at hands that strayed near him during the day.
I didn’t notice the severed phone line until, hours later,
someone called. Hello? I asked, gnawed wire
hanging limp. Hello? A missed connection,
a question floating, unanswered in the aether. I knew
we’d have to give that dog away. I begged him to be quiet,
to be docile. There are no unselfish prayers,
except maybe the one that goes, Throw away the outside
and cook the inside, eat the outside and throw away the inside.

__________________________

Ross Losapio is a graduate of the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served as Lead Associate Editor for Blackbird. His poetry appears in Copper Nickel, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the minnesota review, The Emerson Review, and elsewhere.