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Lice Eaters

By William Doreski

Years ago in Lindy’s Diner
we watched a woman pick lice
from her arms and eat them. Maybe
those lice were imaginary. But now
real ones have overtaken
the world. Everyone scratches,
shampoos, combs, shaves those regions
we’ve never learned to discuss.
Rimbaud’s sisters would find work
everywhere, peering and plucking
and crushing with powerful nails
the tiny punctuations. Shower
twice a day with deadly chemicals
and we find ourselves louse-free
in a lousy world. Avoiding crowds,
avoiding public places like bars
and churches, we retain our sterile
aura, but the general contagion
throbs like a pustule. The army
taught me to aggress against lice.
I recall the misery of men
in foxholes scratching desperately
while snipers zeroed on bobbing
and lice-riddled heads. Poison
and fine metal combs. Shampoos
reeking of kerosene. That woman
died two decades ago and willed
her lice to the world. Real or not,
they reproduced so vividly
everyone now enjoys them.
Shaven heads reflect the sunlight
in subtle prismatic colors.
We’re all lice-eaters now, blood-thirst
so general many go mad and drink
that deadly chemical shampoo,
sure that the nits are brain cells,
signs of genius run amok.

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By William Doreski

Your house looks half-demolished.
Workmen stare at piles of lumber.
Windows blinded with plywood
suggest utter ruin within.
Chimney’s down. A palette of fresh
pink brick reclines on the lawn.
I wouldn’t have planned to visit

if I’d known your remodeling
would render your house so awkward.
Yet you prance across the lawn
like a stoned ballerina and hug
so hugely my eyes pop. Maybe
this visit will improve upon
the last, when at the yacht club

we toppled drunk into the harbor
and nearly drowned. The workmen,
snickering, pack their tools and depart
for greasy meals at the diner,
beer at the VFW, quarrels
with their wives. We enter
your torn-up house and I discover

doorways enlarged to accommodate
a king-sized bed. I flop on it
and drowse while you pour red wine,
an instant transfusion. The room
whirls and you turn out the light.
Thanks to the plywood windows
the dark is absolute. The bed

wallows and I struggle to hold on.
Wind sings in the chimney-hole.
I like your renovations. The cries
of some distant fun-loving couple
racket through the neighborhood
and we laugh because through plywood
they sound like dinosaurs mating.

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