HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CLAUDE!
Last night I was sobbing again in the bathroom—
Unclothed, soaped-up, nothing new—when I happened
to glance out the window and see the peeping tom
crying too, nakedly, and we shared a moment
of camaraderie before I went to the kitchen,
digging in the drawer for the butcher knife to cut
the cake on which was written “Happy Birthday, Claude!”
I wasn’t Claude and it wasn’t my birthday.
This was just some days-old baked good got on clearance
after its owner failed to appear. Sorry, Claude.
Wearing only icing, I reminisced about
giving tours of the teaching hospital, whiskey
in hand. Or how I sunbathed on the lido deck
of the cruise ship with my ex-wife. We studied our
Oedipal complexes as one might a raised mole,
wondering if we ought to get them checked.
Recently I read that a thousand Irishmen
had consented to being photographed naked
for an art instillation. See: nudity is natural!
So why all this attention paid to matters
like agrarianism? The ship is sinking,
someone joked, and everyone’s emotional bareness
heaved and twittered. My ex-spouse wondered aloud
what it might be like to run frenzied and topless
into a cavernous ocean while I recalled something
someone once told me about a dog with a neck wound
infested with maggots. When the owner touched
the fur it fell away, revealing maggot-covered
flesh, as the dog lay promptly down and died.
The owner claimed this was fairly common, thinking
I might accuse her of abuse, but I wasn’t
in the mood for indictments, too busy sleepwalking
through my own doorways of ragged glass.
Dan Pinkerton lives in Urbandale, Iowa. His work has appeared in Pleiades, Boston Review, Canteen, Indiana Review, Cutbank, and Quarterly West, among others.