Richard Peabody is a French Toast addict and a Native Washingtonian. He has taken his daughters to see every animated film of the past decade. Because of them he knows way too much about Miley Cyrus. He thinks “Despicable Me” is fabulous. He loves “Rango,” too.
There is a Charnel house in the city of Rouen
which has become an art school. Very fitting
somehow—an art school whose exterior is
decorated with Memento Mori.
I think of this now, because when
I moved from my Bethesda apartment
I tossed my old futon in the dumpster.
Too big, it stuck out like a white elephant.
That night it rained.
In the morning the futon was a gruesome crimson
as though somebody had poured buckets
of blood over it in the darkness. My girlfriend,
on seeing this spectacle, told me in no uncertain terms
that my previous girlfriends were all disgusting pigs.
I was much more afraid somebody would call the cops
and I’d have to somehow explain this red nightmare.
Which brings me back to Rouen, where they burned
Joan of Arc at the stake in the town square. Rouen,
which I pronounced “Rowan” to the delight of
the entire country. Stupid American tourist.
The French are much more comfortable with blood
—menstrual or otherwise. And in a country where the
plague and perpetual war have killed so many people,
few would raise an eyebrow at my failure to own a mattress pad.
The Torturer’s Apprentice
Forget everything you know about being human
save for anatomy.
Rely on childhood memories
of injuring small animals.
If it can hurt you
it will hurt them.
If you’re squeamish
mute the blood.
one step at a time.
Don’t allow anticipation
to ruin your moment.
They always confess.
There’s never any doubt.
Yet for you it must be
about the journey.
[Originally published by riverbabble June 25, 2012]
All the Lost Crayons
1) Prussian Blue (ceased 1958)
Kids fight over their favorite crayons.
If you reach for my Aquamarine or Copper
I might just bite you.
And who didn’t love you,
I needed you for the deep water
surrounding Mike Fink’s river boat,
the night sky above Bull Run,
the deep sea adventures
of Sea Hunt and Captain Nemo.
When they changed your name
to Midnight Blue
we were too young to get it.
This new color will have to work.
Look, it almost matches.
I wouldn’t learn about
Kenny Burrell’s “Midnight Blue” for years.
2) Flesh (ceased 1962)
I used Flesh for all my cowboys
and Civil War soldiers.
My Davy Crockett and Lone Ranger
Bronco, Lawman, and the Cisco Kid.
What on earth were they thinking
when they changed your name to Peach?
No hero is Peach-colored.
Every kid felt betrayed.
The Peach crayon was too sissy,
and it wasn’t remotely close
to the color of the peaches we ate
on summer visits to North Carolina.
Peach. We all wanted to grow up to
take over the crayon companies and
name our own damn crayons.
3) Indian Red (ceased 1999)
My favorite crayon of all was Indian Red.
It was the first one to have its paper
peeled off, the first one to be used
down to a miniscule nub.
Parents balked at buying a new set
of crayons just because one was toast.
Use Red Orange, they said.
How can you color Tonto Red Orange?
Parents don’t know anything.
How dare they change your name to Chestnut?
I just missed using you again
when I began coloring with my daughters.
But you haven’t been in most sets of crayons
in living memory.
I thought you’d given up
the ghost long long ago,
when all of the TV westerns
were replaced by bikinis and secret agents,
when I couldn’t find you
no matter how hard I tried,
one hand on my Tales of Wells Fargo coloring book—
Dale Robertson and that stagecoach,
another hand on Maverick or Roy Rogers.
Nothing else worked in your place.
Not Brick Red, Mahogany, Maroon, or Salmon.
And only now I discover that you, Indian Red,
weren’t based on real American Indians at all.
You were always meant to be the type
of red used in fabric from mainland India.
You’re dead to me now, along with
the other retired colors—Raw Umber,
Thistle, Blizzard Blue, Magic Mint,
Maize, and Blue Gray.
Replaced in the Crayola Universe
by Metallic FX Colors and Silly Scents,
with names like Alien Armpit, Booger Buster,
Big Foot Feet, and Sasquatch Socks.
[Originally published by Vox Poetica on Sept. 26, 2012]