by t. zoEy benally

Anger always heats up my optic nerve
--When a person buys into the drunken Indian myth
I imagine the nerve fibers turn red hot
--Authoritatively telling me that it’s a well known fact
Like an inoculation loop thrust and held in a Bunsen burner flame
--That Indians metabolize alcohol differently
Metal glowing magma red-orange-yellow
--Shame and blame righteously doled out like potato salad
That Indians are genetically predisposed to becoming alcoholics
--So where is your published peer reviewed article?

Several years after his death, Charlie was on local television
Filmed by a church group proselytizing and saving Indians,
In the parking lot of the Turquoise Bar, a dirt floor establishment
Constructed to resemble two kachina heads, two hogans, two cells almost done dividing
Placed conveniently on the road leading into our dry reservation,
By a non-native businessman “just trying to make an honest living.”

I imagine the day the film was shot, Charlie’s glucose,
albumin, and globulin were low, but his serum liver enzymes were normal,
Last remaining soldiers surrounded by fibrous tissue wastelands
Normal landscape disrupted and distorted by chronic warzone activities
Going through the motions, maybe sometimes not having enough resources
Or sometimes overwhelmed, and serum levels drop equivalent to a cockroach sigh.

Charlie spoke incoherently, blinking his already low eyelids at reptilian speed
Pendulum sway, non-plumb-bob at the end of some unseen pivot
Ammonia slipping past the liver into systemic circulation, making its way
Up, to the blood brain barrier, and bursting through
Unruly mob of women shopping at 5AM on Black Friday

Bile acid shots circulating in his blood--disregarded,
A mixed drink of conjugated and unconjugated bilirubin flowing in his blood--disregarded
By his fibrous shrunken liver, lumpy with numerous attempts at regeneration
Fresh starts, resolutions—with the standard half-life of the New Years variety,
Many years passed since acute toxic hepatocyte injury and initial enzyme leak

No one knows what the day was like when Charlie’s hepatocytes
were first damaged by cheap, fortified, swill packaged in bulk quantities
Maybe it was a fall afternoon bite, into a tree ripened apple—bright, cold, sweet and crisp
Alternating sunny and cloudy, ravens and magpies squawking quarter note triplets
Brisk winds roaring through obsequious dry leaves while hepatic necrosis ensued

Gradually Charlie’s blood flow ebbed to a slumberous pace as scars and attempts
at regenerative growth anastomosed and compressed sinusoids and central veins
Charlie’s belly, gibbous with ascites and most likely spenomegaly
Hindered his attempts at stealing fire for humans,
Prevented him from being hailed a champion
Yet Charlie was STILL chained to the Hogback, liver eaten out for eternity by Turquoise bar
And Hercules came too late for this would be Prometheus
Charlie died of hepatic insufficiency in 1985
The same year that the Turquoise Bar closed


Mental Diverticulum

Pulsion or traction, it makes no difference
Because I’ve acquired a mental diverticulum

I functioned with my mental diverticulum
Subclinically for almost a decade
Existed on a bland diet of television,
chit-chat, and reading material set in
greater than 11 point serif font

Benign ingesta slipped quietly past,
Inaudible crowds streaming past, an undiscovered
dead end mall hallway that violates the Life Safety Code
Children laughing, women brooding
mildly distraught over
unmatched hand bags and alligator skin shoes
Clamorously unaware of the skulking horror
enthusiastically hovering in tumid crypts
Ptyalistic at the prospect of undetected ambush
unanticipated subterfuge
Frightened bodies crammed in,
The unfortunate
Seeking ingestion and digestion
Down an erroneous passageway
in a smoke choked labyrinth.

This lesion was fashioned by
Contracting fibrous tissue
Like small diameter child fingers
picking and pulling at diaphanous dry cleaning bags
Forming flimsy blister traumas,
Or perhaps incompressible fluids
transferring hydraulic forces,
liquid mechanics executed
along a section of pipe wrought
from the same brittle steel
that sank the Titanic.

Before this lesion existed
Information flowed faster and more efficiently
than hayate shinkansen
Axons myelenated
Unctous and 4X fast forwarding
stoic commuters leaping
from node to node, station to station
a flat stone hurled and skipped across water

Since this lesion matured
I am dyspneic
With daily Thanksgiving feasts of information bought on credit,
--15 pound bird, basted and baked
Sides of mashed potatoes, cranberries, and gravy--
All vanishing into a barren, leviathan, marsupium
Fermenting a monstrous concoction
of incoherent ideas and jumbled logic
I am dysphagic
Gavaged foie gras bird
Mental cachexia, and liver diseased

And all the while interest accumulates
Concurrent Guinea worm infection
Emerging and wound around a stick
Slowly, and painfully extracted by financial institutions

Development of this lesion
makes me anorexic and apprehensive
At the prospect of aspiration pneumonia
Carious, uncontemplated, regurgitated facts
Pahoehoe lava--Inhaled
Creating a fabulous environment
favoring bacterial proliferation

I’ve acquired a mental diverticulum
and no amount
of endoscopy or barium
Will divulge its location


Goose Filth & Bottlecaps

I'm not going to crawl in there.
Wet goose poop will soak through my jeans
and slime onto my knees
Cold, wet--rejected by goose cells
I'm not going to crawl in there.
Dry goose poop will stick onto the palm of my hands
Urea dust, seemingly more potent--toxic
Riddled with unknown bird bugs
I waddle in, only the rubber of my tattered Converses
are allowed to touch the filth
I feel myself tip and steady myself
Hand pushed against
Corrugated insulated walls
Bottle caps used in lieu of washers
Spread nail pressure
and keep cardboard in place
I grab goose eggs and cautiously back out
Bathroom Sink

Water swirls down the chrome plated drain
Canned laughter erupts, reminiscent of,
Laughter strategically inserted after
Limp noodle Brady Bunch punch lines
But Alice does not clean my dual sinks
Elsewhere she sits, sipping coffee
with her Sam
I squeeze SoftScrub with bleach
onto enamel and chrome coated metal
Never able to exorcise
Canned laughter swirls
Escaping down the drain


How are you doing Jack Mueller?

Some days I wonder how Jack Mueller’s doing
If he still slings that string of snake vertebrae around his neck
I wonder what he would say if he knew that I had lost my voice
Washed away by the rain, blown off into straw fields and buried
Turned under with spent gray topsoil by thick silver blades
Jack probably couldn’t see the smokey lisps
Whispered rumors of some poet, sometime back
Lost endurance, asthmatic lungs and mind
Only able to write single stanzas
That trail off…