- Matthew Morgan
- Illustration for Shark in a Jar
You will see a mountain. You will uncover a code
at the checkout. Be alert for strange dogs
in your basement and very clean windows.
If you encounter a baby carriage, keep
walking. If you trip on a phoneme outside
your native language, wrestle with it until it lies
flat. If awoken at five by sidewalk construction,
slide into a second dream. When the shape shifters
knock, let them in. When dread and forgotten names
join hands, hold your breath. Each time you round
a corner in search of a lavatory, another flight
of stairs will appear. You won't know the structure
of the aircraft you're in. Relief is close at hand.
I stepped into a statue
to see if I would fit, tilted
my head and raised my arms,
shouldered a musket, held still
hoping no one would notice my blinks.
I felt my skin harden and turn dull
bronze, standing above a plaque
bearing my name which some paused
to read on their way to the Mexican
restaurant where you can order
a burrito the size of a baby, and if
you finish every bite win a T-shirt,
say cheese with the wait staff.
Meanwhile I was frozen outside,
no longer trembling or wishing
I had someplace interesting to be.
Shark in a Jar
FD & C Blue No. 1 plus formaldehyde
looks just like the Atlantic. Face-first
in sealed aqua, banana-shaped. Memories
of boardwalk daiquiris, the mosaic
of his mother's shed teeth glittering
from a sandbar. His smile a slit throat.
He thought there would be others,
pickled playmates. Perhaps other stunted
threats: scorpion in a jar, tarantula in a jar.
Or babies kept cute forever: flamingo in a jar,
manatee in a jar. Or freaks, saved from
sideshow life: tiniest girl in the world in a jar.
They'd float towards one another, finger to fin.
But he's perched between mantle knickknacks.
Bust of Freud, kissing angels, homemade
dreamcatcher. He dreams of dunes,
tapas and jazz, fusion cuisine, the cheerful
tourist trolley, the useless whistles that swung
on well-oiled chests of lifeguards.
The jewelled ferris wheel after dark. Here,
houseguests rock his mini-tank from side
to side, as if they could wake him, as if
he were precious.