In a pile on the garage floor lays a spool of wire
waiting for its repurposing:
to be stripped
and sold to a guy whose body
smells of cigarettes and metal. Mark
approaches the pile, places his lawn chair in the spot marked
by crushed pop cans and ash, and picks up the end of the wire.
He slides his X-Acto blade across the grey body
careful to balance his strength with gentle purpose.
His hand determines if the scrap
becomes trash; it’s a small strip
between money and wasted time. He splits the rubber skin like an orange and strips
in long, sudden pulls sending tiny bits of plastic into the air. Mark
thinks of snow and how the whitish interior scraps
sometimes cling to the wire
like wind grips his cheek to purposely
remind him of his mother. His body
winds tighter and he throws back his arm,
feet of casing stripped
the gleaming purpose
made obvious from the light marking
a small slice in the wire
almost deep enough to make the scrap
It reminds him of his face,
the long lines twisted like wire
with room to stick in your thumbs and strip
away the protective layers to find a mark
underneath. He wonders what purpose
would it serve to run your fingers over an old sore, purposely
what’s left. It’s just another mark
to be hidden inside the skin of a used body.
He stops dreaming, unstraps
the delicate lacing of clotted veins to their original wiring.
Mark shakes the excess off his body
and picks up the scrap where he left off. He strips
more and more, until it’s only him and the white floating plastic and the wire.
Michael VanCalbergh received his MFA in Poetry from Rutgers-Newark where he taught for six years before relocating to Normal, IL. When not finding missing puzzle pieces with his daughter, he co-hosts the comedy etymology podcast Words for Dinner. His work has appeared in The Collagist, Per Contra, Naugatuck River Review, and others.