Three Poems by Jamey Dunham

BOMB 79 Spring 2002

The Lemming Parade

The apes are mulling about the magazine racks and rhinoceros are shuffling their feet. Somewhere a building realizes it settled and turns to the bottle. Oh for the lasagna roaster purchased at the gift registry. Oh for the days of dull lawnmower blades. A meerkat and a muskrat are playing pinochle in the park but neither know the rules, they’re just biding time.

The first snowflake settles to the ground. Then another and another. It’s not snow, it’s confetti. It’s ticker tape for the Grand Lemming Parade. See how they fill the streets, see how they celebrate. Up the stairwells, onto the roofs, see how they smile right up to the end. Their tails trailing like comets.



The mattress is soaked and we’re taking on water but no one seems concerned. The Captain is preoccupied with smoking his beard, which just this very day has grown long enough to reach his pipe, and the children are all dead. One might expect an air of defeat on such a macabre vessel as this, yet I still manage a smile; a testament to my wife’s sack lunches that I hang under my nose like a shingle. The Captain has a rank odor about him that he attributes to his pipe but, unbeknownst to him, he too will soon expire. I can’t say I’ll last much longer myself. The mattresses continue to die in droves and flake from the ship like dandruff.

I take a deep breath and fill my lungs with sea air, a halfhearted effort to keep us afloat. “I haven’t felt this young since birth,” I say to the corpse of the fetus seated beside me. It doesn’t respond. I shake its little head like a Magic Eight Ball and peer into its milky eyes for an answer. Inside I see the lights of something like a discotheque and for the first time in a long time I find myself thinking of suede. “Oh if only there had been time for baseball,” I say aloud, “we could have both retired on an arm like yours.”

A strong wind kicks up and smacks the urine-stained sheet that is our only sail. “We’re really moving now,” calls the Captain, his head now lost in a thin cloud of smoke. I count the whitecaps racing past and scan the horizon for phantom icebergs, a dolphin, anything that isn’t blue.


Crossing the Equator

Clouds churn on the ceiling and chickens grow restless. For my part, I reach for my hat. I saw this coming. Yesterday the cows were lowing and kneeling on the carpet (the pile may never fully recover). Today, I had an epiphany. “When you get down to it, I’m charcoal,” I say aloud. I feel like I could disappear and recompose as a leaf. Ravenous dust bunnies spring from under the couch and circle my head like magpies. I try counting sheep backward in an effort to wake up, but this annoys them and they turn on me. Armed only with a shrimp fork and my own feeble definition of “domestic partners,” I resolve to ride out this storm from the comfort of my bedroom.

I tiptoe past the glacier as it wilts on the sill. Tomorrow it will form the lake I mistook for tears, back in the days when otters were foolhardy. I am crossing this deluge by matchstick, by crocodile … I can’t even see my feet! I feel like Noah, my many vices hanging from my neck like a beard. Two by two my fears return to me. Some take the form of animals, others my own inadequacies. A dark and bristly pelvis is lurking in the backyard. “Beware,” cries the mouse that lives in the kitchen. It is standing on top of the refrigerator, waving a hairy fist in the air and pretending not to be intimidated by the crown molding. Hand in hand the children of my third-grade class walk up the plank of my ark bearing gifts of wildflowers, while in the bathroom pedophiles wash up for dinner. From the parlor I catch the faint murmur of harpies calling to me from a distant pay phone.

“All aboard the crazy ship,” calls our captain, a wolf and former train conductor. It knows nothing of seafaring etiquette but is well versed in railroad jargon. Oh train of ill-guided intentions, it was more than the stray stone that leapt me from your tracks and found me here, aboard this ship. All things creepy contained within its hull. Something about my cabin doesn’t sit well with me. The props are right; plastic shackles, scented tea lights, and an oil painting of a shrew beheading a toll bridge. Cigarette jockeys trample overhead as they lead their beloved to befuddled glue. “’Tis a better place,” they whisper to velvet ears, “a pane-less view of a much darker viewing box.” I say let us don our sleeping caps and pretend to dream but the stable erupts in a unanimous nay.

Time for a visit from Uncle Specter and all the glowworms are present and accounted for. Blind rodents infest my thoughts like children with an ear for candy (A lively bunch of corpses, their mother was a dragonfly). Oh sacred chipmunk, won t you hike up your robes so that I might paint your toenails in the blasphemy of the moment. I toss a silver dollar at your shining utopia and drape a shower curtain over your watchful eye. I blink three times and tie a short piece of string around a short piece of string.

Jamey Dunham’s prose poems have appeared in Boston Review, ACM, Boulevard, and Quarterly West, among others. He currently teaches in Cincinnati, Ohio where he lives with his wife. His manuscript, Prairie Dog Town: Prose Poems, is currently seeking a publisher.

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Originally published in

BOMB 79, Spring 2002

Featuring interviews with Steven Holl, Stephen Mueller, Janet Cardiff, Laurie Sheck, Cornelius Eady, Victor Pelevin, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Bill Frisell.

Read the issue