Poetic Hill: Twilight Zones

Michael Gushue


Michael Gushue is the co-founder of the heteronymic nanopress Poetry Mutual. He co-ran the BAWA reading series, the Capitol Hill reading series, Poetry at the Watergate, and the Vrzhu Bullets of Love blog. His books are Pachinko Mouth, Conrad, Gather Down Women, and, in collaboration with CL Bledsoe, I Never Promised You a Sea Monkey and The Judy Poems. He lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

This poem is from Gushue’s new chapbook, Sympathy for the Monster. “All the poems have something to do with movies and film. Some of them are not about a particular movie, but about kinds of films. More are about a specific movie, one that has had a place in my mind and imagination for a long time—which can be as an image or a number of images, or the just the film itself. And, as the title suggests, many are horror films, although it doesn’t have to be a horror movie to have a monster in it.”


The secret of the universe

is in a cigar box on a dusty shelf

of an abandoned pawnshop.


An alcoholic lawyer, steals it, sells it

to a shut-in mogul whose bad heart

can only be saved by an ex-surgeon,


hands shaking like jumping beans.

He prays for a steady knife then drops it,

impaling the cabin boy’s foot under


the flaming gaze of the cannibal sailors.

Hiding in the crow’s nest, Satan.

From his lookout, he watches a drop


of sweat fall onto a worn bench

where the washed-up heavyweight

struggles in the sauna of his thoughts


towards the love of a convent girl

dying of an infected wound

on the slopes of Kilimanjaro.


The final twist is me, alone with my

robot mom. No one has explained

what I was seeking at those altitudes.

Sandra Beasley is the curator of “Poetic Hill,” a resident of Southwest, and the author of four poetry collections. If you live in D.C. and you’re interested in being featured, you can reach her at sandrabeasley@earthlink.net for questions and submissions (1-5 poems).